Elizabeth Seton nurses, Guatemalan health promoters swap techniques

November 1, 2017

During a visit to Guatemala, two nurses from the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, N.Y., visited a school in the town of Uspantán with local health promoters, who showed the nurses some of the exercises they do with children to encourage them to better understand their emotions and to focus themselves for classroom learning.

Nurses from the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, N.Y., mug for the camera outside the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Medical and Dental Clinic in the town of Nahualá, Guatemala, where they volunteered. They are, from left, Krystle Fata, Danielle Veli, Melissa Minutaglio, Massiel Estevez Lopez, Danielle Prestano and Monselue Perez with Sr. Maria Iglesias, SC.

A health promoter took a group of children outside and encouraged them to follow along to a variety of slow, deliberate movements. "They loved it, and it's impressive to see a 5-year-old be quiet!" said Melissa Minutaglio, a nursing supervisor at the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center. The health promoters also led the children through calming breathing exercises, returning focused, alert children to the classroom.

In another exercise, the promoters asked children to identify different parts of their own hands with an emotion, take stock of how they were feeling and then "release" the emotion by touching and shaking out that part of the hand.

Minutaglio and Danielle Veli, a clinical nursing educator at Elizabeth Seton, said they learned about many traditional practices in Guatemala related to movement, therapeutic touch, prenatal massage and guided imagery. They hope to incorporate some of what they learned into their care of children at Elizabeth Seton.

Elizabeth Seton is a nonprofit children's subacute care center that is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of New York. It provides medical, rehabilitative and special education services to 169 children with medically complex conditions, all of whom are from the New York metropolitan area. Children at the center may require a short-term stay or long-term care.

Minutaglio and Veli said that with approval from the pediatric center's administrators, they may use stress relief or calming techniques they learned in Guatemala to soothe a child before a medical procedure or to help a child settle before starting a school day. (Because Elizabeth Seton includes long-term care, most children at the center attend school on site.)

Elizabeth Seton's Danielle Veli visits a school in the town of Uspantán, where she assisted health promoters who were teaching children breathing exercises.

Minutaglio and Veli were among six members of the Elizabeth Seton registered nursing staff who visited Guatemala for a week in April. The nurses traveled around the Quiché region in northwest Guatemala with health promoters from the Barbara Ford Peace Center, a Guatemalan ministry of the Sisters of Charity of New York.

The Peace Center offers social, spiritual and educational programs, as well as cultural, political and judicial programs. The center's promoters, drawn from the mainly indigenous Mayan peoples who make up much of the populous Quiché region, travel to communities in the area to encourage healthy behaviors.

The Elizabeth Seton nurses traveled with the promoters to a clinic and nursing home in the city of Santa Cruz del Quiché. They pre-assessed patients for a local doctor at a medical clinic in Nahualá and traveled to the town of Sacapulas to visit with 25 midwives, observing how the midwives encourage health behaviors for pregnant women. The U.S. nurses learned some of the prenatal massage techniques used by the midwives.

The Elizabeth Seton nurses demonstrated their nursing expertise when a boy, about age 7, had a seizure while they visited his school. Veli said Elizabeth Seton nurses helped to turn him on his side, discouraged someone who proposed giving the boy a drink just then, and brought the child to a cool room to bring his body temperature down. The boy's father took the child to a hospital where he received testing and treatment. Veli said their presence to assist the boy felt "very divine."

The nurses want to continue a relationship between Elizabeth Seton and the Peace Center. Depending on future requests from health care providers in the area, the nurses said they might teach basic life-saving skills, such as CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, upon their return. "We really hope this is the beginning of an everlasting relationship," Veli said.



Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.