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Gaining a new perspective on health care

What Ashley Holloway learned from her knowledge exchange in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, certain members of the Indigenous population live in such remote areas, you can’t access them by vehicle. Imagine the barriers that can pose when a woman living in one of these areas goes into labour. 

This is just one example of how Ashley Holloway found a new perspective on health care while volunteering with Horizons of Friendship this past February. The clinical placement officer in the School of Health and Wellness participated in a knowledge exchange with the charity, which works to eliminate poverty in Central America and Mexico. The project – Maternal, Newborn, Child Health: Transforming Indigenous Lives – focused on health care for women and children within Guatemala’s Indigenous population. Ashley, who has a keen interest in women’s health, applied after a friend sent her a link that her midwife had posted on social media. 

Throughout their time in Guatemala, Ashley and her co-participants met with local health care professionals to discuss issues that contribute to maternal and infant mortality. Through discussion panels, hospital and home visits, and workshops, they learned about the barriers that face this population when accessing health care. When one physician learned that some of the population lives in areas not accessible by vehicle, she said she would never get angry at a patient again for missing an appointment at the hospital.  

Also, on home visits, the group noticed that some of the women didn’t speak Spanish; they spoke their Indigenous Maya K’iche language. Therefore, at the hospital, no one speaks their language, so they fear going. These language differences created barriers, resulting in a fear of going to the hospital.

Ashley’s experience can help practical nurse students start to understand the cultural differences in health care. “We can’t expect everyone to buy into how we do medicine here,” she says. “We have to appreciate that we have to look at health differently and accept other people’s beliefs.”

Is your story waiting to be told? If you’re a learner with an interesting story, we may want to tell it on bowvalleycollege.ca. Email us at newsroom@bowvalleycollege.ca.

Posted on May 1, 2018

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