Nurses and nursing students from Minot State University and Universidad alas Peruanas in Peru have forged strong bonds over the past few years with exchanges of visits and ideas.

Earlier this summer, six nursing students and a professor from Minot State visited Peru and had the opportunity to work in Peruvian medical facilities under the supervision of their Peruvian hosts. For the past few weeks, faculty and two nursing students from the Peru have visited Minot State.

Elizabeth Cabana de Lopez, director of the school of professional nursing in Arequipa, Peru, and nurse and administrator Maria Olarte de Quesada, nurse and faculty, along with students Cinthya Lorena Loza Huamani and Aaron Morales Ramirez said they saw more similarities than differences in American and Peruvian nurses.

"The one thing that is very similar in the United States and Peru is the heart of the nurse," said Dawn Fredrich, nursing instructor at Minot State, who has worked with the group. However, medical facilities in the United States have more resources than those in Peru.

Nurses in Peru, particularly those who provide basic care, receive a low salary. Olarte Quesada said there is also a higher nurse-patient ratio in Peru, with one nurse expected to tend to many patients during a shift. They also have to fill out medical charts by hand, so it isn't uncommon for a nurse to stay two or three hours past her shift to finish up the work. She isn't paid for the work beyond her shift. More nurses who provide basic care are needed, but more students are interested in going into specialty fields where they can make a higher salary, said Olarte Quesada. The Peruvians said they were impressed by how well doctors and nurses work together in U.S. hospitals and the relationship between nurses and their patients. They also felt a strong connection to the medical personnel they met on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation at Fort Yates, they said. They also had the opportunity to attend the public health nursing conference last week in Bismarck and were interested in the impacts that the oil boom has had on health care in North Dakota.

The Peruvians would like to see the Peruvian medical system focus more on preventative health care, something that U.S. medical personnel also are pushing for.

Olarte Quesada's son, Juan Jose Quesada-Olarte, is a graduate of Minot State University's nursing program and is currently working at a hospital in Bismarck, said his proud mother. That connection was what led to the first exchange trips between Peru and Minot State.

Olarte Quesada said her son is considering going to medical school and would be the third doctor in the family, joining his brother and his father.

Morales Ramirez said he plans to return to North Dakota to pursue a master's degree at some point. He was excited to have the opportunity to visit North Dakota, as was Loza Huamani.

Fredrich said Minot State's nursing department is already planning a return trip to Peru. Students from Minot State receive university credit for making the trip.

"It's turning into not just a visit, but a relationship," said Fredrich.

The Peruvians have visited medical facilities around the area as well as visiting staff and students at Minot State. They will return home at the end of the week.