Archive for December 24, 2015

Montego Bay: Day at the Waterfall

After a long week of waking up early, getting in late, and sweating our scrubs out in the smiling Jamaican heat, we had the chance to take a break and enjoy Jamaica a little bit. We have done teaching and healthcare screenings all over town in churches, orphanages, and adult and youth centers. We sang Christmas carols, packed food for holiday gift baskets for the less fortunate, and became family with the community here in Montego Bay. It was now time to pump the brakes and relax on our last full day in the tropical country of Jamaica. On the agenda: Dunn’s River Falls in Ochos Rios, Jamaica.

Although it’s a two hour journey to get there, we were amped at the opportunity to travel and explore. From Montego Bay, we traveled through dark skies and rain to Falmouth, Duncan, and Discovery Bay. On our trip, we found out that Discovery Bay is actually where our team leader and trip coordinator Dr. Lisa Muirhead lived with her family for 2 years back in the 90’s. She has been coordinating this alternative winter break (AWB) trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, since she came to Emory University from The University of Tennessee (UT). At UT, she took students on similar trips like ours to Jamaica and had already made the connections that power this location’s success and mutual appreciation. Runaway Bay was another city we passed through and our bus driver Mr. Willie gave us a very moving and interesting teaching on the history of the city’s name and its connection with slave trade in the 1800s. Mr. Willie shared several little gems of Jamaican history with us along the way and made sure to enrich our American minds with some of his culture as much as he could, and we appreciated it. We continued along through St. Ann’s Bay and finally found our way to Ochos Rios.

Dunn’s River Falls is simply amazing. Once we made it in, the rain stopped, the clouds scattered, and the sunshine pierced through the skies just for us. In this beautiful gem of a natural attraction, we took a hike downhill with AR 15 rifles through the tropical oasis that is Jamaica and found ourselves at the mouth of Dunn’s River Falls, leading into the ocean. From there, we met our tour guide and up through the fresh water of Dunn’s River Falls we went. Beautiful is the only word that can describe nature’s artwork in that place. Simply a thing of beauty and we all had a refreshing, fun time climbing up through the falls. We enjoyed it so much that we did it twice!

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For lunch, we visited the Ochos Rios Jerk Centre where we enjoyed jerk chicken, pork, sausage, and conk, along with roast fish, calalou, rice and peas, and festivals. We’ve become quite accustomed to the foods here in our short stay and had no problem placing our orders by this time. To top it off, we had another run in with Devon House Creamery where we did damage, again. That ice cream didn’t stand a chance. As we loaded up to leave and head back to Montego Bay, we looked out over the beautiful scenic views of the ocean, beaches, and tropical mountains and vegetation in awe. What a time to be alive.

Many many thanks to our incredible professors Dr. Muirhead and Dr. Ferranti for their leadership this week and to the Lillian Carter Center for providing such an amazing opportunity for us. We can’t wait to take what we have learned back to school with us this coming January as many of us start our last semester at Emory. And thank YOU for reading our blog and reading about our work! We are so excited to share!

Montego Bay: Children’s Home, Packing Food Baskets

Day 5:

Our last day of work started off with a trip to Garland Hall Children’s home. We arrived at 10:30am and realized our population there was very different from the other orphanage we visited a few days before. There were 22 kids, both girls and boys, ranging from the ages of 6 to 18. Marcela Sanchez (BSN ’16) and Elsa Stauder (BSN ’16) led a discussion about dental hygiene, complete with a quiz game where the children could win their own set of wind-up chattering teeth! The lesson was very well received by the children, and all were provided with their own toothbrush and tube of toothpaste at the end. Kate Yuhas (BSN ’16) followed up with discussion about healthy eating and Jessica Rutledge (BSN ’16) continued with a lesson on physical activity.


The younger half of the kids went outside to play with a soccer ball and a frisbee that we brought with us and donated to the home. The older half of the kids stayed inside to learn about HIV, STIs and pregnancy prevention with Xueying Cao (BSN ’16) and Heather Balenger (BSN ’16). Reviewing the different ways to prevent pregnancies and reminding the kids to wait for the right time to become sexually active was helpful for the older kids. Jamie Li (BSN ’16) provided individual patient education to a child diagnosed with asthma.

While all the kids were upstairs with some of our team, other members of our group were downstairs screening the 5 adult staff members for BMI, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Most were in good health; however there was one lady whose blood glucose level was near 400. She and the rest of the staff were counseled by our team members to help identify ways to improve their health.

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With a final round of Christmas carols to finish our visit, our group said goodbye to our new friends and made our way to our next stop.

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We arrived to the New Testament Church of God to help pack food baskets for their community, many of whom we have built relationships with over the past few days. We filled bags full of flour that were going to be given away next week for Christmas.

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We said a final farewell to our friends from the church and returned back to the hotel to relax and finally enjoy some sun!

Montego Bay: Health Screenings

Day 4:

One of our main events for the trip to Jamaica was the health screenings for the Montego Bay community around the Montego Bay New Testament Church of God. We arrived bright and early at 8 am and began setting up in preparation for clients at 8:30.



Upon entry, patients were first greeted by a group of team members and given a green card to write their different number values on. They were then  escorted to our blood glucose station to begin their circuit followed by BMI calculation, blood pressure testing, and health counseling at the end where the values on the patient’s green cards were analyzed and educated on where fitting. We used some additional resources to communicate patient complexity and paint a picture of the whole patient.



At the last stop, patients had the opportunity to choose a pair of reading glasses if needed and grab a pair of sunglasses. Upon their exit, those screened received gift bags including shampoo, bar soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, condoms, pedometers, and lip balm. We screened a total of 49 people. Success.


After a quick bite to eat for lunch and a fresh coconut to wash it down with from a street vendor that happened to have gotten screened with us, we left the city limits of Montego Bay and headed over to Reading, Jamaica to perform health screenings for the local community surrounding The New Testament Church of God Anchovy. It was a winding trip up the mountain through lush, dense tropical vegetation in the rain, with nice mudholes and potholes to match, but we made it. Mr. Willie made it happen once again and got us up the mountain safe and sound. We set up quickly and got to work with the people waiting in the same fashion as we did earlier. We were able to screen 27 people and donated 2 blood glucose monitors, equipped with 100 lancets, 60 test strips, cotton swabs, gauze, and alcohol wipes to some people that really needed it. A total f 26 people were screened at this facility. Success number 2!



After our trip to Reading, Jamaica, we made our way back down the mountain to Montego Bay and stopped in the city for some Jamaican kick for lunch from Island Grill. To sooth our sweet tooth, we rounded off our lunch with some awesomely insane good tasting Jamaican ice cream at Devon’s House. We loaded up on the bus and were off to our last stop, back at Montego Bay New Testament Church of God where were the guests for the youth ministry tonight. And because so many people wanted to get a health screen, but couldn’t make it earlier today, we decided to perform a second screening along with and in the background our presentations to the youth minstry. Although unscripted and unplanned for, our group adapted, regrouped, and made it happen.



All hands were definitely on deck to make the evening a success and it could not have been done without everyone on top of their game. (It turned out to be a 14-hour day!) We were able to simultaneous screen 80+ more patients and host a teaching module on physical activity. To say the day was impactful is an understatement. The number of lives we touched today will make a difference in these people’s lives and they deserve it. #Grateful

Montego Bay: Girl’s Home, Hospice Center, Women’s Centre, Children’s Home

Day 2 (continued):

After finishing our tour at Cornwall Regional, we arrived at the Melody Home for Girls at about 4:30 on Tuesday ready to enrich the lives of some young teenagers. This is an orphanage for young girls who have gone through some tough times in life, have no parental support, and need guidance. Heather Balenger (BSN ’16), Jessica Rutledge (BSN ’16), and Xueying Cao (BSN ’16) pioneered the way with health education presentations on the importance of exercise and STD and safe sex practices. The group drew the girls first with an icebreaker known as the human centipede followed by some stretching and group talk on the importance of exercise led by Jessica Rutledge. Heather and Xueying kept the girls attention with safe sex practices by involving them with the proper condom administration performed on bananas; and it was a hit!

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Sabrina Jahani (BSN ’16) followed their well received module with a very informative and interactive teaching on domestic violence equipped with a moving domestic abuse skit read by Erin Pollock (BSN ’16). The girls were very engaged in this subject and were most vocal on this matter. To round things off for the night, Chuncey Ward (BSN ’16) and Heather joined Sabrina for teaching on dating older men and the dangers associated with this matter. Everyone had a great time in fellowship with one another and smiles were everywhere at the end of the night. This was the first time for Emory SON at Melody Home for Girls, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.


Day 3:

To get our third day in this beautiful city started, we visited a hospice center to provide companionship and laughter to the patients who lived there. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know those patients and hear their life stories. Some students performed massages and others went room to room singing Christmas carols. The Christmas spirit was certainly in the air!

We arrived at the doors of the Montego Bay Women’s Centre at around 11:30 as the second stop on our Thursday leg of the trip. This is a place where young teenage girls who are pregnant can come and continue their schooling as being pregnant  is not allowed in the public schools. We found that the girls have the option to stay for 3 months post delivery if they choose and once they have given birth. Xueying Cao (BSN ’16) led the discussions by informing the girls on pregnancy prevention. Heather Balenger (BSN ’16) tag-teamed Xueying’s efforts with a presentation on HIV and STD awareness and safe sex practices equipped with her patented condom-on-the-banana race. Kate Yuhas (BSN ’16) finished everything up with a group interactive presentation on healthy food choices and nutrition pointers to keep in mind as young pregnant women.

Throughout the day the girls had several opportunities to win prizes that included baby bibs, board books, diaper rash cream, socks, nipples, bottles, diapers, and much more. At the end of our day we sat individually with groups of the girls and discussed similarities and differences between life in United States and Jamaica as well as their plans after pregnancy and high school. Gift bags including shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, lip balm, and candy canes were given to each of the girls on our way out. We have also planned to give personalized bobbleheads to this beautiful kids next time. For our farewell, we sang Christmas carols for the group. Our holiday spirit carried us over to a daycare next door where preschoolers were enjoying popcorn and a bouncie house. We made lots of little friends there and also gave them a good helping of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells…and they of course loved it!

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Our bus driver for our stay, Mr. Willie Smith (Not to be shortened as just “Will”) took us through down town Montego Bay for lunch to introduce us to what he described as “the best beef pattie spot on the island,” Juici Pattie. Everybody enjoyed the tastes of Jamaica indulging in patties with beef, curried chicken, curried shrimp, and beef and cheese.

After lunch, we continued on to the Blossom Garden’s Children home, an orphanage that took care of many children from infants to school-aged children. We performed health screening for all the workers in the facility including BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose, and counseling afterwards to discuss the results. Other students spent time with the children, feeding and interacting with them. Jessica Rutledge (BSN ’16), Nadege Pierre (BSN ’16), and Jaine Lee (ABSN ’16) provided education about physical activity and used the game “Simon Says” to show one way to perform exercise. Marcela Sanchez (BSN ’16) demonstrated how to correctly brush teeth and all children were provided a goodie bag that included a brand new toothbrush and bottle of toothpaste. Kate Yuhas (BSN ’16) provided education regarding healthy eating.

After a long day, the group returned to the our hotel and enjoyed a meal together along the water at one of the nearby restaurants.

Montego Bay: Comparing Jamaican and US hospital systems


Day 1:

Our trip started off to a great start with our arrival to Montego Bay on Tuesday morning with 17 nursing students, our two faculty instructors Dr. Muirhead and Dr. Erin Ferranti, and four full suitcases of supplies for our work in Jamaica. Some of the medical supplies we brought include blood glucose monitors, lancets, gloves, first aid kits, hygiene kits, blood pressure cuffs, sharp containers, and stethoscopes. In addition, we collected other supplies and donations to give to the Jamaican community including bibs, pacifiers, lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrushes, candy canes, glasses, bar soap, socks, lotion, shampoo, razors, diapers, and combs.

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After checking in to our hotel, the group headed to The Church of God to speak with the men’s group about healthcare problems specifically associated with  Jamaican men.

Erin Pollock (BSN ’16) led our discussions with an education module about smoking cessation and the problems associated with both firsthand and secondhand smoking. The men were very engaged in learning about how nicotine affects the body and ways to quit smoking and/or share with friends and family. Afterwards, each participant received a handout to help develop an action plan to ditch the habit and a pack of gum to show one way to support smoking cessation. The group also insisted on using Tobacco Free Nicotine Pouches, during the withdrawal.

Chuncey Ward (BSN ’16) continued with an educational module about the risks and symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer, which is a very prevalent issue in the country of Jamaica. The men received handouts with relevant information to bring back home with them in hopes that they will educate their peers and community.


After both presentations, we performed blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) screening. For those whose BMI was elevated, our nursing students provided one on one patient education regarding exercise, diet, and lifestyle modifications.  The men were receptive to our advice and felt very motivated to maintain healthier lifestyles.  Afterwards, every participant received a gift bag which included anti- fungal cream, condoms, and razors.

After debriefing upon return to the hotel, the group got a good night’s sleep in preparation for our day at Cornwall Regional Hospital.

Day 2:

At 7:30 am, the group left the hotel and headed to Cornwall Regional Hospital, a ten-floor facility of the West Regional Health Area that served the Montego Bay population in a variety of specialties including psych, pediatrics, and oncology. We met the director of nursing services as well as other nursing personnel who helped explain the structure of the nursing profession in Jamaica. We then divided into two groups and toured all units of the hospital. We were able to engage with the nurses and ask questions, comparing practices between Jamaica and the United States.


Some examples of the differences we found include:

  • No epidurals are performed, only spinal analgesia
  • Hospital facility was open to air in center of hospital and in almost every patient floor
  • No IV pumps, gravity based drip factor calculation
  • Medications are not locked, no Omni cell
  • Nurse to patient ratio is 1:15, can be up to 1:25
  • Average wait time in the ER is close to 24 hours
  • No heparin is used in the facility
  • They use water jugs for traction
  • There were wards instead of units; individual wards are separated by gender
  • No electronic files, all handwritten notes
  • Med cards are written on index cards instead of an electronic MAR
  • Nurses here work 8 hour shifts instead of 12 hour shifts
  • Very formal dress wear including a headdress
  • 1 male registered nurse in the whole facility
  • Nursing school onsight, 5 year bonding
  • Pale comparison in pay: $641/month, $7700/yr, 32% taxes
  • Security guards at front door of hospital
  • Full healthcare coverage for everyone

Later in the day, we were able to break up into different wards and observe the nursing role in the hospital directly.