Dr. Tracey Long: Nurses and Nursing Students Bring Las Vegas Luck to Colombia

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!

“The only danger in going to Colombia, South America, is wanting to stay” declares nursing instructor Tracey Long RN, PhD. Not gambling with luck, 35 nursing students took luggage full of medical supplies and their nursing skills to Colombia where they served in six medical clinics. In true Las Vegas style, they didn’t leave good health care to chance.

Based in Chinchiná, Colombia, two teams of nurses and nursing students traveled from Southern Nevada to serve in free health clinics with local doctors during a summer college break. Six remote villages and over 1000 people received nursing care and general medicine in clinics led by local physicians trained in tropical diseases. One village required the nursing team to travel a one-hour jeep ride and then 30 minutes on a wobbly wood plank pulled by a motorcycle on a train track to arrive.

Students saw and treated a lot of Chikungunya, a disease carried by mosquitos nesting in standing water, as it had been extremely common in the communities after the tropical rain season. Carly Pasquale, a nursing student from the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) explained, “We gave away a lot of vitamins and basic hygiene supplies like toothbrushes and combs to people in the villages. I have a new appreciation for basic supplies we get so easily in the United States.”

Students were able to serve in a school for disabled adults, paint an elementary school, and de-lice dozens of school-aged children and their teachers. The nursing students and the nursing team also learned about tropical diseases and natural plant remedies used by Colombians in the area. Students also made 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. “You could never gain this kind of powerful learning experience in a textbook,” said Saliha Lezha, a nursing student from CSN who served with the team.

By serving internationally, nursing students learned about global and community health through a service-learning experience. Students also participated in a research project during their service-learning trip about cultural competence training. Students learned some medical Spanish by immersion with the help of their bilingual nursing instructor.