I am an RPN (LPN) student from Canada and I am writing to inform you all about my incredible nursing placement in Cuzco, Peru! I sought out this placement independently, it was not organized through my school. The organization I am volunteering for is International Volunteer Headquarters
and they run community volunteer projects in 16 different countries internationally, ranging from medical to jungle conservation to childcare programs.
Cuzco is a beautiful city and the people are incredibly friendly. It took a while to acclimatize to the altitude here, at nearly 11,500 ft above sea level. It´s been very interesting to see how the altitude affects people physiologically, Cusquenians are more likely to experience specific co-morbidities than other people who live at sea level. My O2 saturation here is about 93%, as opposed to my normal 99%.
My nursing placement is at a small hospital for low income families called Belenpampa, which primarily specializes in Gynecology & Obstetrics. None of the doctors or nurses speak english, so my (initially intermediate) level of Spanish has been rapidly improving. The hospital conditions are generally rundown and infection control is a bit poor, however not as bad as I anticipated and I did bring my own PPE. The facility is tiny and equipment is very limited. I am volunteering in the labour ward, or Sala De Partos. Last week I assisted in delivering 9 babies within six days! It was an absolutely inspirational & enlightening experience, which has led me to believe that neonatal might be my calling.
Below I´ve attached a photo of myself and the very first baby I assisted in delivering.
I have been collecting data within the hospital and writing daily reflection journals. I will likely develop a thesis while I´m in Cuzco, in order to write a paper on my experience. The birthing process is very natural here and it´s quite fascinating. I have been learning so much, each day absorbing an immense amount of new skills and information.
Also, this week I was invited to an upper class private hospital in the mornings (my placement is in the afternoon), to review patient histories and observe surgeries within their OR. Yesterday I observed a laparascopic appendectomy, in addition to an intricate orthopedic surgery on a severe tibial fracture and a shattered lateral malleous. It was a phenomenal experience, as it was my first time observing both a laparascopic and an open surgery.
RPN students in Canada now graduate with the same scope of practice as an RN, as there have recently been modifications to the Canadian programs. However, RPNs are still paid much less. I intend to bridge to do my RN next September and I would like to pursue my NP masters degree post grad. My dream career is in travel nursing with relief organizations, so I am trying to gain as much experience volunteering internationally as I can before I graduate.
I strongly encourage other nursing students and nurses alike to volunteer in under developed countries, working with low income families here has been such a humbling and truly rewarding experience.
If anyone has any questions, please post below or feel free to message me.