Nursing Students Give Back

In Campus News, News, State News

Students with a passion for nursing go beyond helping the community, stretching their hands far and wide to families across California’s southern border.

The Flying Samaritans are an on-campus organization at California State Fullerton whose primary purpose of the organization is to provide health care to under-privileged citizens of Mexico. Students, physicians, physician assistants, dentists, nurses, optometrists and other caring volunteers travel monthly to medical clinics throughout Mexico to provide free health care to people who would otherwise have none.

“Flying Samaritans offers a unique opportunity to experience health care in a Third World country. It has increased my awareness of the world because it is easy to forget that the other parts of the world are not like United States with a wealth of resources. By going on these clinic trips, I was able to see the dire need for health care and the deep appreciation the people of El Hongo have for the assistance we provide them,” said Adrianna Arteaga, a Flying Samaritans member.

“It is an enjoyable experience to take part in this volunteer activity because students are able to learn about health care without the strict liability boundaries that we face in the United States, and it is rewarding to interact with these people who are so welcoming to our presence in their town,” Arteaga said.

The organization provides health care to people living in the rural areas outside of Tecate, Mexico. Once a month, they open the El Hongo Clinic, located approximately 30 miles east of Tecate. By assisting in administrating, translating and taking vital signs, their members have the opportunity to experience medicine and a different culture. Members also experience the satisfaction that comes from an increased cultural awareness and a sense of teamwork through active participation.

Flying Samaritans CSUF is a student-run health clinic, that with the help of physicians and other health care providers, opens a monthly clinic in Tecate. Unlike other clinics held by Flying Samaritans, which is run by doctors, students recruit physicians and coordinate the clinic.

The organization provides basic medical attention to people of underrepresented communities of Tecate. As students, members get to participate in various activities in the clinic, such as coordinating the monthly clinic, translating for doctors and health providers, helping interpret lab results in our lab, helping pharmacist fill prescriptions, helping educate the El Hongo about common disease preventatives (e.g. diabetes and obesity) and interacting with the children.

“As a member for the last three years, I have not only gained a great amount of volunteer hours for medical school, but an experience like none other. I have had the chance to translate for great doctors, nurses and other health professionals. I’ve learned to take vital signs, glucose readings and urine analysis and the names of many medications and their purpose. I’ve gotten the chance to shadow doctors and learn basic medical terms and conditions,” said Cindy Gonzalez, vice president and physician coordinator for the Flying Samaritans.

In addition to providing help, students get to participate in volunteer work in the medical field. Many of the members are pre-health students interested in the medical field and child services.

The organization is not limited to CSUF and opens the doors to other students who want to volunteer. Students from UCR join them, as well as students from Cal Poly Pomona, CSULB, UCLA and Fullerton College.

The Flying Samaritans give students a chance to build up great volunteer hours and have a chance to shadow professionals. Aside from volunteer work the club has a high emphasis on learning and has lectures on medical cases given by physicians. The clinics are held every third Saturday of the month and are usually 15 hours long with travel time included. The students leave at 6 a.m. and are back at CSUF by 9 p.m.

To keep the clinic running each month, students recruit physicians each month, fundraise with bake sales to buy medications and ask retail stores such as Target and Wal-Mart for donations to keep up with the clinic needs: thermometers, zip lock bags, medications, water and basic first-aid stuff.

“I’ve also have gotten the chance to make great connections with students and physicians. I have gotten letters of recommendation from two doctors and made many new friends. Overall, this club has made it clear that a medical profession is the right path for me. It has also made me discover my passion for volunteer work,” Gonzalez said.

The Flying Samaritans have future plans for the organization. Gonzalez hopes to increase awareness in preventing disease and have more students participate in raising money and donating for the needs of the clinic. They also plan to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations to get more funding for pharmaceuticals.

“I think what I’ve learned the most from working at the clinic was how lacking in medical care certain parts of the world are. I remember one time I was assessing an older woman’s blood sugar and it ended up being quadruple the normal levels. The fact that she was still alive at her age astounded me. It was at that point that I realized we were pretty much her only access to medical care. She couldn’t afford anything better. It’s really made me realize how lucky I am to have a doctor to go to here and how ungrateful some of the U.S. patients I work with are,” said Raymond Jacobs-Edmondson, a club member.

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