Dr. Tracey Long: An Un-Belizeable Experience!

Tracey Long is a registered nurse who has served on the nursing faculty at the College of Southern Nevada and at Nevada State College. She loves to take nursing students internationally to travel and serve with International Service Learning. She has lead teams to Belize, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Costa Rica and has an upcoming ISL trip planned to India!

“Do you have a lid on your outhouse to keep out flies and insects?”
“Can you put a net over the bed to detract mosquitos?”
“Do you have a lid to put on the rainwater barrel to keep your water clean?”
“When was the last time you were treated for worms?”

These questions are not commonly asked by nurses in the United States, but they were asked repeatedly by a group of 17 nursing students serving in Belize in summer 2013. As volunteer student nurses, over 200 patients were treated in free health clinics in three remote, Spanish-speaking villages in this Central American country.

Students also visited countless more villagers through personal home visits, where they assessed the sanitation of outhouses, the rain barrels commonly used for drinking water, and the safety of wood-burning stoves. Students learned about tropical diseases, natural plant remedies used by the ancient Mayans of the area, and the level of nursing care offered in the local hospitals. Requests for basic items such as vitamins and simple hygiene supplies, like toothbrushes and combs, were common among the people seen in the village clinics. Students gained a new appreciation for supplies so readily available in the hospitals where they train and work in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I can’t believe how for granted we take having gloves and masks when it’s so basic, and they don’t even have them in the hospital,” stated Ashley Elliott a new graduate RN who served with the nursing students on the July 2013 service-learning trip.

By serving internationally, the nursing students learned about global and community health through lived experiences. Students also participated in two research projects during their two-week service-learning trip about cultural competence training and grading the effectiveness of various mosquito repellants. Although English is the official language of the previous British colony of Belize, Spanish was the most common among villagers, and students learned some medical Spanish by immersion with the help of their bilingual nursing instructor.