Tag Archives: Paraguay

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Adventures in Paraguay

paraguay students

Photo courtesy of Rachel Matthews

By Jessica Tanner

As a nursing student, you fill hundreds of hours with your studies, your classes, and your clinical hours in hospitals. One day you wander by a flyer for a study abroad or see an email from one of your professors asking for student researchers. Do you keep walking? Do you disregard the email? Or do you consider the possibility of experiential learning outside the classroom? Though it may seem like there is not enough time nor resources, it may not be as impossible as you think. Two nursing students share how they got involved in a life-changing research trip to Paraguay.

These students joined Dr. Sheri Palmer, who was the recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, in Paraguay to address the issue of teenage pregnancy.  On this ten-day research trip, they had two objectives: the first was interview local teachers, principals and community leaders about Paraguayan teenage life.  The second was to teach Days for Girls classes, teaching young women and girls about maturation and teenage pregnancy. For fifth-semester student Rachel Matthews, one of the best parts was “seeing the girls understand something they didn’t before, see them get empowered about their bodies and … themselves.” She also enjoyed the one-on-one interviews. “I’d missed that Paraguayan soul,” she says.

Matthews had served her mission in Paraguay. Coincidentally, so had Dr. Palmer. Having recently returned from her mission, Matthews was in search of something that would take her nursing skills outside the classroom. Her opportunity came in the form of Dr. Palmer at an ORCA conference. Matthews was about to leave when she spotted her teacher next to a Global Health sign. “I thought if there is anyone I can talk to, it’s probably her,” Matthews remembers. “I went over to her, and I sat down and started explaining some of the public health issues I’d seen in Paraguay. It turns out she’d also served her mission in Paraguay, so we bonded really quickly over that. As luck would have it, she’d also applied for a Fulbright [Scholar Award] to teach at a university in Paraguay.”

A sixth-semester student, Julia Lee, also coincidentally connected with Dr. Palmer. After returning from a mission in Argentina, Lee attended a Spanish class that Dr. Palmer was auditing. Lee had taken a gerontology class from Dr. Palmer, and started talking with her. The more she talked with her, the more she learned about the upcoming research trip to Paraguay. And the more she learned, the more interested she became.

These stories share a commonality: both Lee and Matthews got involved by talking to their professor. Professors are there to help students learn, in and out of the classroom. “That first step is just getting out of your comfort zone and asking professors if there is something you can do,” says Matthews.   Teachers and students have ideas; it is usually together they can make those ideas a reality. For Lee, too, the key to gaining these experiences comes from connections and questioning. She relates, “I happened to be in the class with Sheri Palmer. I could have just not talked to her about it, but I was interested, so I asked. And she talked about it, and it was interesting, so I asked.” Matthews adds that professors are constantly reaching out through emails. It does not take a lot to get involved – it simply starts with asking questions.

Though study and knowledge are important, real-world experience is also required. “There’s more to what you learn than what’s just in the textbook,” says Lee. That includes empathy, people skills, and problem-solving.  She continues, “I highly suggest going on a study abroad because it really heightens your learning experience. It makes your learning more holistic.” Another student on the research trip, Megan Hancock, adds, “Travelling is fun on its own, but when you travel with a purpose to learn and serve, you really can’t travel any other way again.”  For Matthews, the reason she enjoyed the research trip was the same as her reason for going into nursing. “I just like helping people in that greatest moment of need,” she says. “Really being there on the front line at the bedside.”

It is with that attitude that these students got involved, and none regrets the experience. Their story can be your story.

 

 

 

Fulbright Scholar Award: Dr. Sheri Palmer

By Mindy Longhurst

20181022_114839_HDRAn image of teaching professor Dr. Sheri Palmer with people from the National University of Asuncion. Image courtesy of Palmer.

Teaching professor Dr. Sheri Palmer has had an incredible year spending time in Paraguay for two significant nursing projects including a Fulbright Scholar Award.

Studying teenage pregnancy in Paraguay

This past August, Palmer with two other faculty members and five nursing students went to Paraguay on a research project to learn more about teenage pregnancy in Paraguay.

Palmer first came to love the people of Paraguay while serving a welfare mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly after receiving her RN license thirty years ago. Since her time in Paraguay as a missionary, she has had a strong desire to go back and serve the people that she loves. While pondering this, Palmer came in contact with a nursing student named Rachel Trujillo who also served a mission for the Church in Paraguay. As they discussed their love for the people, Trujillo remembered the high teenage pregnancy rate in Paraguay and wanted to do something to help. She discussed this with Palmer and they decided to get a research team together to learn more about the teenage pregnancy rate in Paraguay.

(Watch a video about Trujillo and Palmer deciding on what to research in Paraguay https://youtu.be/BKjP1zyPqY0)

To study the teenage pregnancy, the students and professors went to Paraguay to interview local leaders and teachers about what might be contributing to the high rate of teenage pregnancy. Of these interviews, nursing student Julia Lee says, “We asked what is the frequency of teenage pregnancy here, what risk factors contribute to a teenager getting pregnant, what is happening now to prevent or reduce teenage pregnancy, and what suggestions does this person have to reduce teenage pregnancy.”

(Watch a video about the interview process https://youtu.be/nCzNfEdv7rY)

While they were in the schools in Cerrito, they would teach the girls from ages 8+ about maturation and sex education. They also provided each of the girls with a Days for Girls kit. This kit included underwear with built in washable pads so that the girls would be able to be clean during their menstrual cycle. Third semester nursing student Cortney Welch says, “I think teaching Days for Girls was really beneficial to those we were able to reach out to.” Trujillo expounds, “I think it will make a big difference, especially since our guides are now going around with Sheri, teaching the curriculum to other people. It has been cool because we have left other people in place to continue the legacy.”

(Watch a video about the Days for Girls program https://youtu.be/KA46WPHvqK8)

The 10 day research experience for the nursing students and faculty members was a great experience! Megan Hancock says, “I loved it! The entire time I was there I felt blessed to be there. It was nice knowing that what we are doing would lead to interventions that actually work because we were researching what is and what is not working.”

Fulbright Scholar Award

For six weeks from mid-October to the beginning of December Palmer was able to stay in Paraguay to help teach the nurses, teachers and students about nursing with her Fulbright Scholar Award. The Fulbright Scholar Award allows Palmer to be a visiting scholar to the national university in Paraguay (National University of Asuncion). Palmer was able to teach nursing classes to faculty members and students of the college in five different cities. She was able to teach at the Paraguayan Nursing Association, at private hospitals, public hospitals and at the Ministry of Health.

20181022_154935An image of Palmer with other medical professionals in Paraguay. Image courtesy of Palmer.

This is the first round of a two year experience in Paraguay for the Fulbright Scholar Award. The second round will be next March and April and the third round will be sometime in 2020. Going back and helping the Paraguayan people over the course of two years will help Palmer to make the biggest difference possible.

The love that Palmer has for the people of Paraguay is so evident, she lights up when she speaks about the people she has met while there. When Palmer would introduce herself and start her classes in Paraguay she would always try to explain the love that she and others have for the Paraguayan people. She explains, “Almost every time I was able to tell them about my mission, I would tell them that they were important. Just being able to express my love for them. It was neat to let them know that people think about you and care for you. We want the best for you.”

Palmer wants all of the nurses in Paraguay to feel empowered and to know that they are affecting so many lives. She says, “Empowering nurses is so important. One of the reasons I was there was to help empower the nurses, help their value of nursing to be greater in the country, to be looked upon as a worthy profession.” When she left the different cities she was teaching in, she did not realize the impact that she would have on others, just like the nurses in Paraguay do not always understand the impact they have on others.

Palmer is currently preparing for her next phase of the Fulbright Scholar Award. Palmer is eagerly looking forward to her next return to Paraguay!

To read more about Palmer’s experiences with her Fulbright Scholar Award read her blog https://palmerfulbrightinparaguay.wordpress.com/.