We have safely arrived in Chitre, and it’s the first day of clinicals! The bus picked us up at 7:45 a.m., and we headed over to the University of Panama Azuero to be welcomed by the Minister of Public Health. Dr. Collado was extremely generous to offer assistance in any means necessary for us to be able to experience the villages. We then split off to our clinical sites Chitre, Llano Bonito, and La Arena health centers. At these clinics we assisted with vaccination, pediatric evaluation, and pap smears. It was amazing to see the connection between the nurses and their patients. The nurses know their patients on a much more personable level compared to in the States; however, the techniques used in the clinical site were quite surprising.
Water is used to clean the skin prior to the injection rather than an alcohol wipe. No gloves are used in the process whatsoever, and aspiration is a key part to the vaccination process. We did a windshield survey, where we went to different neighborhoods and observed our surroundings. There were a variety of things that caught our eye. For one, we noticed that there was a lot of trash in the street, as well as no sidewalks. The drivers were reckless, and we thought about how dangerous it could be. We also found out there wasn’t an urgent health clinic nearby, which would make it difficult for people to receive the immediate care they need. Most of the houses in the area were very open and did not have windows or doors. This made us think about blood-borne infections that could arise from this and make this population more at risk for acquiring Zika. On the way back from our trip, we ran into one of the nurses from our health clinic and that made us realize how small the town really is. We also discovered that the neighborhood had many small markets making food accessible. Most local businesses are family owned and passed down from generation to generation. Most importantly, these first two days the Panamanians in Chitre have been so welcoming and have made us feel at home.