By Lindsey Zwecker
Photographer: Trisha Cabantac
Today, March 12th, we learned all about the healthcare system and the role of nurses in Puerto Rico. We began the day at the Salvation Army in Ponce. We gathered in the dining hall where we were welcomed by lovely table settings, cold water, and freshly made coffee that the director provided for us. Our first presentation of the morning was from Sr. David Espinet, president capitulo de Ponce, the president of the Ponce chapter of the Puerto Rican nurse’s association. He talked to us all about the different types and roles of nurses here as well as the different degrees a nurse can receive from universities. It was very interesting for the group to learn about the differences and similarities of the healthcare system here versus in the mainland United States when it comes to the profession of nursing. The most shocking thing that we learned was that a single nurse on a unit may have up to 20-25 patients at one time that they are responsible for. Crazy to compare to the 4-5 patients that a nurse cares for in the mainland United States.
After Sr. Espinet’s presentation we got to hear from the director of the Salvation Army in Ponce who told us about the history of the Salvation Army in Ponce and more about the programs and activities that the Salvation Army runs. She then guided us on a tour of the beautiful facility.
Afterwards, the group went to a fun lunch at a restaurant called Bankitos, where we ate burritos, quesadillas, and taco salads. Once our stomachs had settled and we debriefed the morning we were off to our next location, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico (PUCPR), the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. There we met some lively nursing students and had the privilege of swapping information about our programs and learn about the life of a Puerto Rican nursing student. It was amazing to hear how passionate and enthusiastic the group was about the nursing profession. The greatest part of the day however, was when one of our students, Lauren Duncan, asked them to salsa dance for her. Two students jumped up began to dance and proceeded to teach Lauren as well. Soon the whole group, PUCPR students and Emory students broke out into dance, teaching each other and became submersed in laughter and amusement.
Once the dancing settled down and the group finished trading stories we were given a tour of their nursing school. We soon learned that their education is not very different from ours. Their simulation labs have similar, if not the same, manikins as we have at Emory, and we saw a student participating in a “check-off” exam for a skill just like we do. We quickly learned that the Puerto Rican students actually have many English textbooks and that all of their equipment and medicine is in English. But, they have to additionally know everything in Spanish so that they can explain things to their patients. We were amazed at their intelligence and how simple they thought it was even though they are learning nursing and medicine in two languages.
We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Fusión, an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant, and then again with some delicious local ice cream. Tomorrow we are starting off the day feeding the homeless of Ponce and meeting another group of nursing students at an additional university.