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October 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

Journey: Meg McCaffrey

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By: Olivia Morrissey

Seventy blood pressure screenings. Four hundred thirty-two patient visits at a nursing home. Ten projects explaining oral hygiene, urinary tract infections and hypertension. Ten Marquette nursing students, and one life-changing experience.

“Traveling to Peru got me back to why I want to be a nurse,” says Meg McCaffrey, a senior in the College of Nursing who traveled to the tiny village of Piura, Peru to offer medical care and education to the people there. McCaffrey, along with other Marquette nurses and a Marquette nursing professor, lived at the Sacramento Santisimo church compound and spent time in an emergency room, a hospice facility, a prenatal clinic and a social services center. She even nailed down the tin roof of a home constructed out of bamboo stalks and a half-day’s worth of the labor of villagers and future nurses alike.

The month-long service trip was made possible through the Marquette nursing program. The trip offers an alternative study abroad option for nurses, who may find difficulty making time in their schedules for both time abroad and clinical work. McCaffrey says she has had her eye on the service program since she visited Marquette as a senior in high school. A native of Sutton, Mass., McCaffrey came to campus to learn more about the College of Nursing. When the opportunity to take a service trip to Peru was discussed in an information session, McCaffrey recalls knowing instantly that she wanted to take part as a nursing student.

Not only were McCaffrey and other nurses given the opportunity to practice their caregiving skills, they were also able to teach villagers basic preventative care and form lasting bonds with those they helped during their time in Piura.

“The people there were incredible,” McCaffrey says, “A large percentage of the population is Catholic, and it is interesting how much faith the people have, but how little (possessions) they have.”

A bed frame and paved floors were luxuries most lacked, many of whom shared one-room homes with family members. Even basic medical procedures, like sanitary practices or tube feeding, shocked McCaffrey. Physicians often used turkey basters to feed patients unable to eat solid food.

“I really learned that it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have,” McCaffrey says, noting the humility and exuberant gratitude expressed by the villagers. “People would be so grateful for you taking their blood pressure.”

McCaffrey’s passion for nursing was reignited during her weeks in Peru, and she says she is thrilled to have gotten to share that passion with the villagers there. This journey in life taught her more about herself and her profession than she ever would have expected as a prospective Marquette student.

“None of us cared that we were sitting the dirt or washing people’s feet or changing diapers because we were just trying to help,” McCaffrey says of the team of nurses. “I feel like I gained so much more from this trip to Peru than I ever could have given back.”