UMaine nursing students plan mission to Belize

Posted Dec. 20, 2011, at 5:17 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Twelve University of Maine nursing students, a recent nursing graduate and a faculty adviser are raising money for a public health, service-learning mission with underprivileged families in and around the city of Belize in Central America during spring break.

Undergraduates, members of the University of Maine Student Nurses Association, will be accompanied by UMaine School of Nursing lecturer and nurse Susan Wheaton. They will work Feb. 27 through March 6 with medical teams in Belize. The program is coordinated by the International Service Learning organization, a nongovernmental organization that has offered medical service volunteer programs since 1993 in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa.

After orientation and field training, the UMaine students will set out in teams for towns and villages in Belize to conduct community health surveys to assess health services needs among villagers. Residents identified as in need of medical care will be invited to a clinic staffed and supervised by licensed medical professionals. Students will rotate through patient intake, triage, examination, diagnosis, treatment and pharmacy stations.

Expenses for the trip are estimated at more than $2,000 per student, said Nancy Fishwick, director of the UMaine School of Nursing. Students have set up the website for blog posts and tracking fundraising.

“Being able to travel with nursing students to areas in need of health care will provide this opportunity of growth both personal and, more importantly, as a nurse,” Wheaton said in a recent blog post. “If you can support these nursing students … you will be part of an amazing journey. Everyone at some point needs the special care of a nurse.”

A passion for public health and justice in health care fuels her interest in the project, said Spanish-speaking Allison Doe, a fourth-year nursing student from Bowdoinham. Doe previously volunteered independently at an Ecuadorian pediatric hospital, with the Chilean Red Cross and with migrant workers in Down East Maine.

“Traveling to Belize will be a wonderful opportunity for a mutual learning experience [for] the travelers and the communities we will be serving,” Doe said in a blog post. The students hope this will be the first of ongoing annual visits to Belize.

For information, call 423-0193 or 581-2594.