Working to provide basic education as a means to fight poverty and improve the quality of the residents’ lives, Nancy Palmer, RN, MSN, and her husband Tom Palmer, MD, take their skills to the streets of Peru for two weeks each summer. They have developed a healthcare program in conjunction with the Peruvian Ministry of Health and the nongovernmental organization “Bruce Peru.”
“We have been blessed with the education and experience to do our paying jobs in the United States,” Palmer says. “And we are glad to be able to share our knowledge and skills with some of the world’s poorest people.”Tom Palmer, MD, with a female Peruvian patient who claims to be 48 years old.
Many of the orphans, homeless people, and street dwellers served by these free medical clinics have complex needs. Often, they have been abused physically, sexually, or emotionally and lack basic medical care, which, in turn, prevents them from gaining the education they need.
Between 125 and 150 people each day receive medical services at the Bruce Peru sites. Although people present with a variety of medical conditions, infectious disease is the most common ailment. Patients are given free medications and medical care.
Palmer, who is professor of nursing at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich., and her husband, a physician, pay out of their own pockets for the medical supplies and medications they need at their healthcare clinics in Peru. The Bruce Peru team consists of natives and volunteers from around the world, some students, some with professional degrees. They are taught how to perform medical tasks such as triage, medical history taking, and pharmaceutical distribution. The nurse and physician also work with volunteers to develop basic health promotion activities.Patients begin lining up at 4 a.m. to receive medical care at a Bruce Peru clinic in Trujillo, Peru. Sometimes, up to 500 patients are waiting when the clinic opens at 8 a.m.
“The volunteers’ ‘reimbursement’ comes in the form of ‘gracias’ and kiss-kiss on both cheeks, plus the knowledge that you have made someone’s life a little better,” Palmer says.
Palmer made a presentation about her experience in Peru at the World Health Organization and International Nursing Research Society conference, “Facing the Challenge of Healthcare Systems in Transition,” which was held in July in Jerusalem.
“Some people say I’ve lost my heart in my work,” Palmer says. “I say that I’ve found it!”