International Esperanza Project and AMN Healthcare partner with FUDI to run a wellness clinic in Tecpan, Guatemala
In addition to the surgical center Team Hope established in Patzun, a clinic was also set-up to provide a number of medical services to Guatemalan families. Located in the nearby town of Tecpan, the clinic was created in partnership with FUDI (Fundacion para el Desarrollo Integral), a Guatemala-based organization that provides year-long community and medical services. Not only does FUDI help to maintain the clinic property, which houses several important medical machines and tools, but the local nonprofit also helps to raise awareness of visiting doctors and medical mission trips such as the current missions with AMN Healthcare and International Esperanza Project (IEP).
The organization did an incredible job of promoting the week of services in their local community. Upon Team Hope’s arrival at the clinic more than 100 patients were lined up, waiting to see a doctor. The team moved in quickly and started to triage the patients by medical issue and urgency. Most patients would see a number of specialists during their time at the clinic. For example, a young patient may come in for a wellness exam, but would also receive dental care and an eye exam as part of their visit. As most patients travel far to make it to the clinic and have limited opportunities to see a doctor, the goal was to make each visit as impactful as possible.
As patients made their way through the clinic gates, they were assigned a case number and invited to enjoy a fresh, hot tortilla with beans as they waited for their turn in line on the front lawn. The tortillas were prepared by local women on the same clean-burning stoves that IEP installs in family homes. In exchange for their services in helping to feed patients, the chefs were allowed to keep their stoves for their home.
Case numbers were called quickly and patients made their way to their first medical appointment. Children received dental assessments and vaccinations. Parents had consults with dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and internists. And almost everyone visited the pharmacy for some sort of prescription or take home medication.
Many doctors remarked on the number of patients they attended to with eye and lung problems, which were likely the result of smoke inhalation in their homes. Dr. Christina Valdez, who is practicing Family Medicine on this trip, volunteered in Guatemala last year as a stover and saw the effects of smoke in the home first-hand. She explained, “When my patients complain about the irritation of their lungs and airways, I explain that this is caused by air quality in their home and that having this open, ever-present fire is equivalent to smoking cigarettes. They are often shocked to know that their stoves can be just as damaging as tobacco use.”
The effects of open fire cooking extends to the surgical suite as CRNA Christine Hart, who is volunteering with the hospital team, described, “Often when we see a patient in the OR, we have to readjust our baseline on patient vitals like oxygen saturation levels. In most situations we want to see this number as close to 100% as possible. But here, we have learned to lower our expectations and understand that our patients will not be able to achieve this ideal.”
But there is reason to be optimistic for future generations, as Christine further explained, “We can already see some of the positive effects of the stoves. I’ve volunteered for several years now and every year, we see better patient outcomes. My hope is that we’ll continue to see steady improvements with each generation.”
Dental and eye exams were also important to families visiting the clinic. Dentists provided oral exams and removed teeth or made tooth repairs throughout the week. Ophthalmologists checked eyes and wrote prescriptions for glasses, which were filled at the on-site pharmacy. In more serious cases, eye patients were referred to the hospital for surgery.
On average, the clinic saw 200 – 400 patients each day with many clinicians staying past posted closing hours of 5:30 pm to attend to families in need. But not a single clinician was upset by the long, often break-less days of work. Most were excited to help and energized by the strong collaboration among colleagues from the states and Guatemala. Said Clinic Pharmacist and volunteer Frances Smith, “We work as a team to help our patients. Every single person matters here and we are excited to be able to give back to this special community that is so grateful for our work.”
You can learn more about our volunteers and the patients we are serving through Facebook #AMNGivesBack.