The mission of the Nicaragua Project:
“…to improve the quality of physical therapy care in Nicaragua by providing in-depth, hands-on instructional courses for professors and local clinicians…We hope that by educating the ‘educators’ we will have the greatest impact on the standards of practice throughout the country.”
Every spring, third-year students interested in the project have the opportunity to utilize their skills in providing a clinical course for physical therapists practicing in Nicaragua. The school, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua, is located in the capital city of Managua, but the benefits of this program extend countrywide. The doctor of physical therapy students work closely with the UF Department of Physical Therapy faculty to create this dynamic learning experience.
While overseas, the students have the opportunity to not only educate and hone their teaching and interacting skills, but they gain cultural awareness and respect for diversity within this field. Not to mention, they see the sights, taste the food, and have a little fun.
While only a select group of students actually go to Nicaragua, there are many more people involved in the planning year-round. Time and effort go into fundraising projects such as working with faculty on a continuing education course and hosting several socially oriented fundraisers.
Each student attending the trip adopts a vital leadership role, whether it is handling the funds, facilitating communication between all involved, or planning specifics of the course itself. Past courses have ranged from the full spectrum from manual therapy techniques to neuromuscular education to current concepts in caring for patients post stroke. Overall, the Nicaragua service learning project leaves a lasting impact on both the clinical practice in Nicaragua and the mindset of the students returning to the states.