Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Study Abroad: Comparing Health Care Practices in Costa Rica

Alexa Zuffante, a Nursing major in the Verrazano Class of 2014, spent the winter intersession in San Jose, Costa Rica as a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.  This is the second post about Alexa's experience, written after her arrival.

Hello again!
Alexa with her host mother.

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica about a week and a half ago. The day I arrived was my host-mother Adays' birthday. What better way for her to celebrate her birthday than by having and welcoming me? ;)  It has been quite an experience thus far. Despite all of Costa Rica's imperfections, it is so beautiful here. It is hard not being able to converse fluently with my host-mom and other natives here. However, my professor speaks Spanish fluently and we have three other UNIBE nursing students who help translate for us.  It was a little overwhelming at first, but at this point in time I feel at home.

With the time difference only being an hour behind the United States, the days here still seem so much longer. I have been very busy; my schedule is very structured between clinical, Spanish class, and homework. I also have observed rotations in hospitals and clinics. Aside from school, we still manage our time for fun! This weekend we went zip lining through a rainforest, and we also took a yacht to a private island called La Tortuga.

About three hours into our day at Tortuga Island we got called to "duty". The professors from Boston, who my professor met earlier in the day, came running for help as a man was seizing. I admit, I got a bit nervous because it isn't everyday that you see someone seize or be able to tell such a story. The man was quite young. We turned him on his side as we allowed him to finish seizing. Luckily we knew he was conscious when he heard my professor call his name. He was also able to move his extremities, which was a good sign. I'm not quite sure if the woman who claimed she was a doctor was a part of his party. Good thing we didn't allow her to put the knife in his mouth as a tongue depressor. In the States, we were taught to never place anything in the patient’s mouth as they seize because they could potentially aspirate or choke. It was weird to see the man several more times throughout the day. I witnessed him laughing and having a good time after the fact - it's a crazy thing how life works. My time out here as made me appreciate life, and I am very grateful and more appreciative. We are very fortunate in the States to have all that we do.  

Alexa and the other Nursing students with Professor Lama.

 The health care system is so unbelievably different. In Costa Rica, the medical staff is all so welcoming and supporting. They have such a heart warming, holistic approach in practicing medicine. It is a very relaxing environment, Costa Ricans follow the phrase "PURA VIDA," meaning pure life. They are very laid back and don't stress the small things in life. Everyone here runs on "Tico time," and it is socially acceptable to be late. I am still trying to get used to this because as you may know, we Americans are always on the go or in a rush.  There are so many differences that I have noticed here. In Costa Rica, the pedestrians do not have the right of way, cars do! Their red light doesn't necessarily mean they have to stop, they just "slightly yield.

The most interesting patient that I observed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was a man who sustained intensive trauma due to a motorcycle vehicle accident - he was not wearing a helmet. Unfortunately, I have seen many admissions similar to this. It is amazing how well he is recovering from such injuries. They reconstructed his whole face! He is able to talk and even has vision in both eyes. Many people don't have the opportunity to have one kidney transplant, but he was fortunate enough to get two! I am still amazed on how privacy here is not a factor… they keep patient's records out in the open as well as their names in clear view. I feel that Americans take life too seriously, we should learn to live life more freely.

"Hacer el bien, sin mirar a quien!" I saw this sign on the bulletin in the neuro ICU unit. "Do good, without looking at whom." I loved the meaning, and we are taught the same in the States. As a health-care provider, it is important to treat every individual the same, and although each individual is unique we must give them the same level of care. 


Monday, January 6, 2014

Study Abroad: Expanding Healthcare Knowledge in Costa Rica

The Verrazano School is pleased to announce that Alexa Zuffante, Verrazano Class of 2014, has been selected as a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.  Alexa was awarded a scholarship to help support her winter intersession experience in San Jose, Costa Rica.  She will be contributing several blog entries about her study abroad experience this winter.  Read below for her introductory post.

It has finally hit me - in just a few days I will be in San Jose, Costa Rica studying abroad! Now that finals are over I am relieved and even more stoked to embark on this amazing journey to come. I am so excited that I forgot to introduce myself!  Sorry, let me start over!  

My name is Alexa Zuffante and I am a senior at the College of Staten Island. I anticipate graduating from the Baccalaureate program in the field of Nursing as a Verrazano student this spring. I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself to further my education. This study abroad opportunity allows me to excel both academically and personally. I feel the faculty-led Transcultural Nursing and Global Health Program would allow me to not only be ordinary, but to be extraordinary. I heard of this program through a Verrazano Extracurricular Learning Activity (VELA) event offered via The Verrazano School. Before the meeting came to an end, I knew I had to participate. Opportunities like this don’t come around often!  I immediately began the application that was due the following week.

At the present time, I am working for an ophthalmologist where I encounter many Spanish speaking patients. This course requires us to take a Spanish class. Although I am nervous about having to take Spanish, I know it will be beneficial. It will allow me to educate my patients with general medical knowledge, health promotion techniques, and basic medical terms. This course is designed for observation in three settings: a hospital, a clinic, and the community. I will be living with a host-family for three weeks. A what? - That’s right. I said a host-family. I know the idea seemed pretty scary to me at first too. I was happy when I found out I was staying with another student, Nicollette, who is a part of the program. She is also a senior in The Verrazano School at the College of Staten Island. I have also learned that an international dentistry student is staying with us as well- should be interesting!  The plan of staying with a host-family is to gain insight into a culture other than my own. By living with my host-family I will immerse myself in their culture and take what I learn to use it in my healthcare practice.

Familiarizing oneself with another person's culture or way of life will result in better patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and establish a trusting nurse-to-patient relationship. Through my two years as a nursing student, I have already witnessed how transcultural nursing is a trending factor in healthcare practice today. The patient population is growing more diverse in America and nurses should stay up-to-date with cultural competent care. Interestingly enough, Costa Rica’s healthcare system is rapidly emerging. This requires nurses, along with other healthcare professionals, to recognize, respect, and appreciate cultural differences in healthcare values, customs, and beliefs.

I believe that this once-in-a-life chance to go abroad will dramatically change not only my life but the residents of San Jose, Costa Rica. In just three short weeks I will make a difference. All in all I have learned a great deal throughout my time here at the College of Staten Island, but the major lesson learned here is that one can never know enough. I will return to the United States happy to sign the two letters I have honorably earned, Alexa Zuffante, RN.

Happy Holidays to all! The next time you will hear from me, I will already be in >70 degree weather! Jealous? ;)

Funds are available through a competitive application process to help support Verrazano student participation in study abroad programs.  Funds are made possible through the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs and the Center for International Service.  The deadlines to apply for a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship are October 1st for winter and spring study abroad programs and March 1st for summer and fall study abroad programs.  Awards range from $1000-$5000, and through the scholarship application process students are encouraged to clearly identify how the proposed study abroad experience supports the pursuit and achievement of their academic and professional goals and how the program would benefit their academic and personal growth.

For more information about the scholarship opportunity, please visit: http://www.csi.cuny.edu/verrazanoschool/study_abroad.html