Stories From the Field:


Global Health Education in Chile

Katerina Kafkas is a Senior Nursing Student at UMass Lowell and a Student Nurse Patient Care Associate at Mass General’s Lunder Building. Katerina spent two weeks in Chile learning about the long term effects of natural disasters on people in developing nations.

Due to its diverse geographical location, Chile is unfortunately prone to natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, fires, tsunamis, and earthquakes. On February 27, 2010, Chile was hit with a severe earthquake that measured an 8.8 on the Richter Magnitude Scale. This earthquake destroyed the major medical center in the Maule region, Hospital de Talca. Almost three years after the earthquake, each unit from the hospital is dispersed throughout the city of Talca, making it difficult for patients to access healthcare and for healthcare teams to effectively work together.

During my two week stay, I visited various psychiatric facilities within Talca with a group of nursing students from UMass Lowell’s Nursing Students Without Borders. In Talca, I expanded my nursing knowledge, particularly in psychiatry and community health, and studied the long term effects of a natural disaster in a developing nation. Under the direction of my professor and the clinicians in Talca, I participated in patients’ therapies on was the inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit. This unit featured just one nurse for over 80 patients. Although it was very busy, I was greeted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek from everyone, including the patients.

Thanks to funding the Mass General Center for Global Health, my role as a nurse was deeply affected by this experience as I now have a much more profound understanding, and appreciation, of international healthcare. I will cherish the warmth and compassion of the Chileans I met and look forward to expanding on the connection our group made with the Universidad Catholica del Maule.