Group of WSU Students with a Coug flag in Peru
A group of WSU Health Sciences students in Peru in June 2017.

By Addy Hatch

The pharmacy student said she didn’t realize a nurse’s touch was such an important part of patient assessment.

The nursing student said she has greater appreciation for the intricacies of dosing and formulation in pharmacy.

This is interprofessional education: health sciences students learning together so they are better prepared to work in teams once they graduate, an approach that has been shown to improve patient care and outcomes.

In this case, students from the WSU College of Nursing and WSU College of Pharmacy were working together in clinics in Peru as part of an annual outreach project there. Each year for more than a dozen years, groups of WSU students and faculty have traveled to the Amazon region of Peru to hold medical clinics, seeing patients who often don’t have regular access to medical care.

The students were encouraged to reflect on how knowing what the other profession did changed their thinking about that profession, said Sarah Griffith, an instructor at the WSU College of Nursing who was one of the four faculty members accompanying the 28 students.

“One of the most powerful things was the interprofessional experience the students had,” Griffith said.

JuvyMarie Oleinik, a pharmacy student, said she hadn’t known how nurses are taught to assess patients. “I never thought of doing those things,” she said. “For pharmacists, we mostly ask questions, we never touch people.”

Daniela Montes, a nursing student, was called to work in the pharmacy on her first clinic day in Peru. “I got to see their perspective on things, checking medications and dispensing them, educating people on what to expect and dosage compliance, working side by side with the pharmacy students.”

Four students stand in front of a rural clinic in Peru.
A group of WSU Health Sciences students in Peru in June 2017.

Montes said she knows as a hospital nurse she’ll want that same working relationship with pharmacists. “If you ever have a question on the floor I feel like you should be able to call a pharmacist. As a nurse you’re the last check when giving a patient medication. You should be able to rely on each other.”

Britney Shauvin, another nursing student, said the experience was “eye-opening,” and she’s confident it will help her in the future.

After two weeks of holding clinics, the students spent a week touring, including a visit to Machu Picchu.

Shauvin said the whole Healthcare in Peru experience was “life-changing” for her, a sentiment echoed by the other students.

Said Montes, “I’ve always wanted to travel. I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone. I was really scared and anxious but I loved it.”