When providing medical care in a foreign country, caregivers will face challenges — whether it’s time, materials, geography, or cultural differences.
In this blog, students and alumni from Carroll College in Montana describe their experience treating children in Colon, Mexico. Their secret to successful treatments? Empathy, bonding with the children, and sharing their cultures to build a rapport and a strong caregiver-patient relationship.
In May 2016, the Santa Maria Medical Outreach Team provided care to students in central Mexico.
The team consisted of two doctors, one nurse practitioner, and six pre-medical students from Carroll College.
The team traveled to the Santa Maria de Mexicano Orphanage in Colon, Mexico, a home for underserved children, elderly, and people with special needs. This orphanage in rural Mexico provides refuge for those in need:
“We care for those who find themselves in a state of neglect, who happen to be homeless, malnourished or subject to abuse.”
During our one-week stay, we provided medical treatment and health education for more than 250 children aged four to 21.
Our outreach team also helped the orphanage create a medical record system, but that was only the beginning of how our team impacted the community.
The members of the team stayed at the orphanage during their time in Colon, which created a unique opportunity for cultural exchange.
This closeness allowed the team and the students to share their cultures and create a bond that made the medical care and education more successful.
When it came to providing the medical care to the students, we first measured and calculated the students’ height, weight, blood pressure, and body mass index before checking them in to the clinic where they would see the medical professionals. The physicians and nurse practitioner then performed physical exams on the students. Based on the physical exams, we conducted labs, such as glucose testing. Finally, all students received fluoride varnish on their teeth.
We then went into classrooms and provided heath and hygiene education. This included lessons on hand washing and spread of germs, dental hygiene, nutritional advice, and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
We handed out new toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste to the students, leaving them with everything they needed to maintain a healthy smile.
Going forward, my team and I are working to establish a twice-yearly clinic to provide ongoing health and dental care for the residents of Santa Maria del Mexicano.
By Charleen McInnis, MD
Dr. McInnis has organized medical mission trips to Colon, Mexico, and established the Montana Outreach Clinic to continue providing care the underserved.
This trip was supported by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation Health Kit Outreach program.
Have you traveled to another country to provide health care? How do you overcome cultural, language, or age differences to connect with your patients? Share your experience in the comments!