Nursing Practicum Placements

Description of the Program

Pueblo Partisans has, for the past 15 years, partnered with Canadian and American Schools of Nursing to provide innovative clinical health science practicum placements in Guatemala. Recent partnerships have been with the University of Victoria, the Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Nursing and the University of Alberta.

Nursing delegations provide pediatric clinics in both urban and rural settings that lack access to regular health services.

Placements, generally four to six weeks in length, occur in marginalized urban settings and in rural indigenous communities. Students are introduced to a diverse range of clinical opportunities. Resource-poor contexts encourage innovative clinical thinking and foster creative problem solving.

In urban settings, students may work with an impoverished community living in a steep ravine, isolated from water or other municipal services. In rural settings, clinical placements take place within the context of broader community work carried out by Pueblo Partisans. The connection with longer-term community work provides Pueblo Partisans with a unique understanding of health issues affecting communities, and a high degree of trust between the community and nursing students. Students gain a privileged understanding of the lives of community members. In some settings, yearly visits by nursing students, accompanied by Pueblo Partisans workers, are the only access to primary health care available to community members.

In the rural community of Tanhoc, nursing delegations provide annual child health screenings. The health screenings are often the only interaction with health workers that these children receive.

Students are supervised by nursing instructors and nurse practitioners, who have a long history of work in Guatemala. These instructors, hailing from academia and community practice, understand both the particular social and political contexts that inform health outcomes in Guatemala, and the learning requirements of North American nursing students. Clinical objectives are negotiated with nursing schools, and are incorporated into the individual design of each experience.

Students travel with instructors in groups. Accommodation and meals are taken as a group. It is our experience that the group setting provides the most secure learning environment.  Evenings are dedicated to group reflection and Spanish study.  While it is recommended that students arrive with a basic foundation in Spanish, this is not required.

In Guatemala, 54% of children under the age of 5 are under height. This represents the worst childhood malnutrition statistic in the Americas. Twenty-two percent of the general population is malnourished. Source: 2007/2008 UN Human Development Report

It is the belief of Pueblo Partisans that an introduction to the structural violence and marginalization experienced by communities, where Pueblo Partisans has a presence, alerts nursing students to inequalities present in North American communities. This awareness, coupled with unique clinical skills, contributes to the development of highly clinically prepared nurses who are more cognizant of the social dynamics of communities, and the impact of these dynamics on health outcomes.