The perceived benefit of a short-term service trip of students and participants while working in an HIV community center in Puerto Rico [version 1; peer review: 1 approved, 1 not approved]
Introduction: Puerto Rico is among the top five territories in the USA to be affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is why our goal is to help the island with service trips. Studies have reported the professional and personal benefits students can gain by participating in service activities. However, the benefits obtained by the Hispanic-Latino participants living with HIV in Puerto Rico, have not been outlined. The purpose of this study was to discuss the perceived benefits of a short-term week-long service trip for the students, participants, and personnel.
Methods: A total of 11 physical therapy students and one professor travelled to Puerto Rico for a one-week service trip. The group partnered with an established organization named ‘La Perla de Gran Precio,’ which works with low-income Hispanic-Latino USA citizens participants that have been diagnosed with HIV. Students were involved in both academic and cultural components by providing physical therapy services to the participants. At the end of the week, surveys were given to all parties involved.
Results: Students, personnel and participants reported the service trip as extremely positive. Students suggested that its integration should be considered in any physical therapy curriculum to improve the future of this profession further. Participants reported learning from this experience and have been able to implement the methods into their routine.
Conclusions: The Puerto Rico service trip enhanced the education of physical therapy students and their ability to increase cultural awareness, boost communication skills, provide opportunities to overcome challenges, and foster a sense of purpose. Also, the Puerto Rico service trip was a beneficial and positive experience for all people involved. Consideration should be made to incorporate this initiative a much larger scale in a population that is vastly underserved.