Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vida is Life

One day of training. One town. Three days of work. 338 patients seen.

     Coming into this trip I was adamant on the fact that I never wanted to be a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, or a physician's assistant, and now I am stuck in a rut. I just finished working with Vida in Nicaragua, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to Central Americans, as a medical assistant. I was given the opportunity to take vitals (blood pressure, pulse, etc.), discuss diagnoses with doctors and collaborate on the medication that should be prescribed to each patient we saw. After just these three short days I became confused as to what I should pursue in my medical career because I fell in love with every job that I performed that week. At least I know healthcare is the career path in which I need to take.

    Nicaraguan healthcare is provided to all citizens through their public system, and healthcare services are cheaper than what is found in the United States. Access is one of the biggest challenges for the country because a large portion of the population lives in hard to reach rural areas. Communicable diseases are also on the rise with Malaria and Tuberculosis being the most prominent. Resources, equipment and medications are often scarce. NGO's are known to fill the gap, providing healthcare to many communities that do not have adequate access to health care services. Compared to Costa Rica, Nicaragua is still being developed while Costa Rica is one of the furthest developed countries within Central America. Costa Rica, like Nicaragua, is still working on providing easier access to care for rural communities, but the amount of resources available to the general population exceeds Nicaragua's. Costa Rica's healthcare system is a universal system that provides healthcare to all citizens regardless of their ability to afford care. Healthcare is based off of a pyramid design with private and public hospitals at the top, regional hospitals in the middle, and the primary care clinics, or EBAIS, on the bottom.

     This week we got to perform like the EBAIS in the Costa Rican healthcare system. The EBAIS is a realm of the healthcare pyramid that travels to different towns within a specific region in Costa Rica. Their visits can be anywhere from once a week to once or month or longer. The EBAIS travels with a nurse, physician and pharmacist just like we did in Nicaragua. During this time anyone is welcome to come and receive free healthcare and medication for whatever condition that they may be diagnosed with. In doing this, people living within rural communities are given the opportunity to be seen by a healthcare provider at no cost. In Nicaragua, the NGO's like Vida are the EBAIS for these people and I am grateful that I could provide this service if only for a short period of time.

     I learned this week that a small group of pre-med students can make a huge impact within a community, and that we need to continue this form of outreach throughout the world. I met many amazing people and every patient I had the opportunity to treat was extremely grateful for our presence. We were left with gifts and memories that I know we will never forget.

Brianna Marino
Elon University Class of 2016
Exercise Science Major
Public Health Studies Minor
Sweet Signatures Vice President 

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