Ingrid Lorena Santiago
Traveling Nurse Practitioner, Fundameno Prestadora health services.
[Translated and edited from the Spanish original Ingrid Lorena Santiago.]
I currently work as a traveling nurse, and cover the jurisdiction of San Cristóbal Quixal, which comprises approximately 23 communities, where I attend the needs of providing health services, prenatal care, care for children and the population in general, as well supervision of staff in the centers of convergence [rural health posts].
I started my studies in 2004 [the first year the CAEC program was offered] at the headquarters of San Cristóbal Verapaz. It was a pilot project and it was a privileged group. We had a lot of help: monthly incentive, a library, etc. The team was not as sophisticated as now, but back then it was a new model for the study, and was a self study, which was very important, the responsibility of each student. I think the group of San Cristóbal was the most united, since it did not suffer attrition, despite all the challenges presented.
For me it was a great support since the economic possibilities of the family were not such that I would normally be able to choose to study in this field. Before starting the course I was only a community facilitator, covering one of the jurisdictions of the health service.
I remember when I had my entrance exam to study to be an auxiliary nurse. It had not even been in my mind to study nursing, but the institutional facilitator came to fetch me, and told me they were conducting examinations. They said that they knew I supported the community, that I was a fast learner and could be in the course. They encouraged me, was how my adventure began in the Auxiliary Nursing course [the CAEC].
The big challenge for all of us was graduating. Whenever any other study group we knew suffered attrition, we supported each other to try to get our entire group through the course. The group was very privileged; since it had a lot of support both a scholarship as well as support from the tutor and teaching materials. It motivated us a lot.
People who heard about the course were skeptical that distance education would work. They believed that it would not yield results. But those doubts were changed through practice. There was daily practice plan, and each module was about two months duration. We had the opportunity to demonstrate our skills, and helped that we had access to the health services, and could work directly with patients.
The support given by the health districts was very important because we had access to services for conducting practicums and demonstrating our skills in caring, helping us students reinforce what we were learning day to day.
This dynamic helped both the health services, as well as the service providers (NGOs) get to know us and saw the work we were doing. This experience gave us a great letter of recommendation for subsequent employment, thanks to the good reviews that we received from the users and staff .
Our performance in the course was such that a fellow student and I were able to apply for a job as an institutional facilitator with a service provider before we had even finished the course. So almost two months before graduation we were working. It was a great challenge because we had to finish the course while doing our job. But this confidence was because of our effort and performance in community work, which helped to get ahead in work and graduate as auxiliary nurses.
My life changed totally, because when you begin to study you does not realize you will learn so much. It changes your life; you become more sensitive, more humble, and helps you realize that even if you are badly off, there many who are worse off, and they need a lot of support and help.
Professionally I opened the door, because I worked informally helping my community. But now I can aspire to a better place, and continue studying, knowing so we can help more people. I studied the technical nursing from 2007 to 2010 on the weekends, since it had to continue working. It was difficult, because as working and studying at the same time is complicated. Family and personal time is sacrificed, but this opens many doors to excel.
I am Ingrid Santiago. I love my profession, serving humanity with love and affection, so that the need to feel grateful for the attention and service with a smile, and I thank TulaSalud for the opportunity that changed my life.