Libia Ruiz and Karen Sousa, two nurses from Iquitos, Peru, were all smiles as they spoke about their “happy opportunity” to spend a week visiting and training in late August at the Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, Colorado. Their visit was coordinated under the auspicies of Centura Health’s Global Health Initiative, and was part of an ongoing and regular exchange of professionals between Avista and Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl, located on the shores of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru. A 40-bed medical institution is one of three hospitals operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Peru. Libia is manager of the Clinica surgery nursing team and explained that her Avista visit “is about gaining a better vision, getting a better idea, and observing a difference in techniques and processes we use with surgeries. I came to observe, watch and try to better my own service over what we currently do [during this] exchange training program.”
A similar comment, expressed with a sparkle in her eyes, came from Karen, a head nurse at Clinica. “For me, this is a happy opportunity to learn,” she said. Avista medical team, together with the hospital’s administrators started their relationship with the Peruvian hospital in Iquitos nine years ago. Referred to as a “cultural ambassador for Peru,” David Meza, a financial counselor at Avista, recalls his first impressions from his 2006 visit. “Today, the clinic is totally different. I remember seeing ants and flies in the operating room. Hygiene was their challenge. Today, everything is different. The hospital’s cafeteria serves gourmet meals nowadays!”
Mezza, who also serves as translator for Avista’s CEO Dennis Barts, says that Avista’s involvement with the Clinica wasn’t a one-time affair. Today, each trip includes additional direct interaction of the staff both in Peru, and in Colorado. “What you notice now is a change in quality of medical care. Hospital leaders have come to observe, then they go back and now we see a change at their clinic,” he added.
Once a month, Dennis Barts holds a consultation with the Clinica administrators and managers via Skype. Barts says that his first visit to Iquitos “made me realize that sustainablility of their hospital is really important. It’s not something that we want to just drop in and be the ‘experts’ but that we can help on a regular basis and be available on monthly Skype calls and quarterly trips, something we can do on a regular basis so we can gain from them and they can gain from us.”
He adds that what he and his staff share are “ways to make their medical service sustainable, including their business plan, their business model and ways for expansion. We’re trying to help on an on-going and sustainable basis on issues important to the Clinica.”
Periodic visits to Avista from the Clinica team include the hospital top administrators, as well as medical staff, like the recent visit by the two nurses.
The Avista team has been “focusing on patient satisfaction, employee satisfaction, patient safety, nursing education, and leadership. We just want to do our part,” Meza says. In addition, the areas Avista administrators have been spending time on include financial services and human resources, as well as quality evaluation and safety.
Commenting about the visit Libia and Karen made to Avista, Barts said that “their coming to our medical facilities here is an opportunity for them to observe and learn. They learn a great deal about safety, quality, patient care, and about processes to make them more efficient and more effective. We spent a lot of time with them. Our staff spent perhaps 60-70 hours with them in the week they were at Avista. We brought in translators to make sure that the communication was very clear. They enjoyed their time here, they said. It was worthwhile for GHI to spend expenses to bring them here.”
When asked how the mission trips and how his own, direct involvement affect him personally, Barts did not hesitate to speak about the “great needs of so many people all over the world. We have the opportunity to respond with some of the blessings we have here and are able to share them with a society that does not have the access to healthcare we do.”
Each time a medical mission team comes back,they will “tell you that they actually got more of a blessing themselves than the good of the work they did when they were there. Just the chance to help somewhere is much more of a blessing to us than the medical care that they gave while in Peru.
Barts adds that many of these participants “take their children, their teenagers with them. It helps their teenagers realize that the latest video game, or the latest smartphone, the latest tablet, or the latest gadget is not nearly as important as changing people’s lives.”
Calvin Smith, who coordinates surgical services at Avista expressed a similar sentiment. A missionary to Peru for two years, Smith said that his involvement in mission trips with a medical team is an “opportunity to give back to them what I learned from them … so that their life can be improved.”
He illustrated the value of his team’s involvement with the value that each surgery has for a patient. “Surgery is a one-time event. For a patient coming to surgery, it is a huge event, especially when an American doctor performs it.” Imagine twenty years later, a patient points to a picture on the wall of a doctor who perhaps saved his life, he added.
Explaining the volume of engagement while in Peru, Meza said that during each visit to Peru, our team sees 1,000 patients. No leisure trip that, “our mission is to make a contribution to see their community enjoy a better life,” he concluded.
As they were winding down their visit to Colorado, Libia shared that one particular event was especially valuable for her. She enjoyed being a part of training for CPR. “What we are missing is being prepared to do it. We appreciated being a part of training [in] how to do it properly,” she explained.
Asked what she would want to take with her back to Peru, Karen answered without hesitation: “What I would like to take with me is a mannequin. This will give me the capacity to help train others.”
The visiting nurses did not hide what they missed most during their 10-day trip to Colorado. “I miss my childeren,” Libia said. “And of course my husband,” Karin added. [Text and photos by Rajmund Dabrowski]
Pictured at top: Libia and Karen Sousa in front of Avista Hospital. Bottom left: David Maza in conversation with Libia Ruiz and
Karen Sousa, nurses from Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl, located on the shores of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru, on a visit
to Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, CO. Bottom right: A premier health facility from Colorado's Front Range -- Avista
Adventist Hospital in Louisville, CO. [photos by Rajmund Dabrowski]