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Health care students and faculty journey to Central America on medical mission

Health care students and faculty journey to Central America on medical mission
UNG family nurse practitioner graduate student Audra Vaughters checks the heart rate of a patient at a makeshift clinic in a remote village in Belize as part of a medical team that treated nearly 700 patients over the course of a week.

University of North Georgia (UNG) graduate students and faculty in the family nurse practitioner (FNP) program traveled to Central America as part of a health care team to provide much-needed medical care to communities in several remote indigent villages in northern Belize.

During the weeklong volunteer mission the students, Audra Vaughters, Tammy Martin and Lesa Parker, and Dr. Deborah Dumphy, associate professor of nursing in the College of Health Science and Professions, combined health care relief with the implementation of a research project titled, "Does an International Medical Mission Trip Enhance Cultural Competency in Health care Providers?"

The group assisted in screening patients for surgical triage and treated acute and chronic medical conditions of 180 patients at the hospital in Corozal, a town 9 miles from the border with Mexico.

The group then embarked on up to three-hour trips to different villages each day that Dumphy said "appeared to be held stagnant in time." They diagnosed and treated villagers suffering from conditions ranging from eye, skin and respiratory ailments to diabetes and high blood pressure. By the end of the trip, 695 patients received treatment. The students applied 60 direct care hours for their senior FNP practicum course.

"The students were so inspired by the work done during this trip; they plan to serve again next year as licensed nurse practitioners and the lead medical mission physician was very excited about the prospect of their return," Dumphy said. "This gives validation to the outstanding professionalism and work our students did and credit to graduate programs at UNG."

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