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Connecting With A Different Culture

Nursing Student Prepares for Two-Week Clinical Experience in Guatemala

Written by Molly Smerika on January 10, 2024

Daisy Espino Aguilar, a student at the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus, was looking for an opportunity to expand her nursing skills and experience new perspectives.

She’s earning her Bachelor of Nursing degree through the college’s Traditional (TRAD) Program and heard about a clinical immersion experience in Guatemala. Students spend two weeks providing community-based healthcare to women and children in a rural area in the southwestern part of the country at the Trifinio clinic.

“I thought (the experience) would be a good opportunity for me to dive into this nursing journey. I’ll be able to work and connect with different cultures than mine, and do it with a diverse team,” Espino Aguilar says.

“I really want to learn a lot from this experience, especially as someone who hasn’t had a lot of healthcare experience before,” she adds. “I appreciate that with this trip, we’re seeing things outside of Colorado. It gives us a chance to be more open-minded instead of just being in a classroom setting or taking exams. It’s more hands-on.”

Students will split their time between the Trifinio clinic and community-based care in the neighboring community area. In addition to assessing and educating patients, they will give reports to physicians and document medical reports in Spanish.

“This experience is about learning the role these nurses have,” CU Nursing Global Health Program Director Pamela Prag, CNM, MS, MPH, says. “What the students in Guatemala are seeing is the outstanding ability of nurses there to lead their communities to improved health.”

“I feel like Guatemala is a country rich in history and culture, but it faces significant healthcare challenges,” Espino Aguilar says. “I want to make sure that I can see how they provide their own care, see how I can be resourceful while I’m there, and then carry that experience with me to provide care for patients, especially in a growing state like Colorado.”

Students with basic Spanish-language skills are welcome to apply to the program. Spanish is Espino Aguilar’s first language – so while she’s fluent, she doesn’t know a lot of Spanish healthcare words. That’s where a translator at the Trifinio clinic comes in to help communicate between CU Nursing students, nurses at the clinics, and patients.

Espino Aguilar says growing up, she would translate for her parents, so she understands the importance of making a connection with patients in Guatemala.

“I’m going to do my best and do more than a superficial 'hello' or '¿Como estas?'” she says. “I want to have a connection with the patient. Growing up, my parents appreciated when healthcare staff made an effort to make a connection while talking to them.”

Bonding With Other Nursing Students

Advice for Interested Students

  • Look at the application
  • Take your time filling it out
  • Talk with students who went on previous trips
  • Check out scholarship or financial aid opportunities

Espino Aguilar is one of eight TRAD students heading to Guatemala February 3-15. CU Nursing will send six groups of students to the country this year. The other groups will include BS in Nursing students in the Accelerated Program (UCAN) and graduate students.

Espino Aguilar says the experience is an opportunity to form bonds with her classmates to create their own community.

“We’re all coming from different mindsets, and we all have different reasons for wanting to do this,” she says. “We all bring different skills, and that’s something I know I’ll be able to bring to this trip as well.”

The group met in December, along with another group going this spring, to learn more about Guatemala and what to expect from the experience. They discussed things like cultural responsiveness and the purpose of the trip. Traveling to a different country and a clinical immersion experience is new to several students, including Espino Aguilar.

“These conversations are important because it’s a different culture than ours,” she says. “We want to make sure we’re aware of who we are as a person, and make sure that we connect with patients. Are we creating any kind of biases? If we are, how can we change the narrative?”

Making the Experience Accessible

Applications Open for June Guatemala Experience

When: June 8-19, 2024


Application Deadline: February 1, 2024


Contact: Pam Prag (pamela.prag@cuanschutz.edu)
or Emily Cheshire (emily.cheshire@cuanschutz.edu)


More information: Guatemala - UCAN Nursing Community / Population Health Clinical Experience flyer

Espino Aguilar says applying for the clinical experience was easy – she filled out an application through CU Nursing’s website. She took her time answering questions on the application until the deadline closed. She also applied for a scholarship to help pay for the trip.

“I know one thing that comes to mind is how can I finance this trip?” she says. “I made sure to connect to the college’s financial aid liaison just to see what my aid looked like, and there are also scholarships available, which I was fortunate enough to receive.”

CU Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez has provided scholarships for five out of the eight students in each cohort. The scholarships are meant to reduce barriers for students who may not otherwise be able to participate.

“I appreciate that CU Nursing is offering this because these opportunities come up once in a lifetime,” Espino Aguilar says. “For me, this is an opportunity to recognize and understand the diverse needs and belief systems of patients, which is crucial in delivering patient-centered care. So it’s important to think about your ‘why’ when doing this type of clinical experience.”

Topics: Students