Archive for Amy

Senior Year – Community Health Interventions

This past week, multiple groups of students finishing their Community Health Clinical rotations gave presentations to fellow students, faculty, and staff on the experience of working as student nurses in a Community Health setting. For many of the students, this was the first time we had worked in a larger, population-based community setting. Some of the areas represented included: The Gateway Center for homeless men and women in downtown Atlanta, Moultrie migrant farm-worker populations, the Clarkston Community Center (home to a variety of ethnicities and refugee populations), and Café 458 Restaurant for the homeless. Overall, the majority of students expressed that they had an incredibly informative, moving, and successful experience working in the community.

Student activities ranged from education with the populations, to interventions to address specific issues – such as high rates of teen pregnancy or increased rates of hypertension. Many of the main health topics and interventions focused on exercise promotion, healthy diet promotion, and prevention activities. The levels of prevention included primary, where clients were provided education; secondary, where clients were screened for different ailments; and tertiary, where clients already suffering from diseases were taught ways to decrease morbidity and mortality from their illnesses. Many of the groups were able to evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions through the use of surveys and data collection of community members’ thoughts. The prevention activities were based on the goals and objectives of Healthy People 2020, a US Department of Health and Human Services nationwide program dedicated to disease prevention and treatment. As a part of these Healthy People goals, it is especially important to reduce the disease burden in vulnerable populations – such as the homeless, minority groups, and immigrants.

One of the most common themes described by the students when reflecting on their experiences included the importance of cultural sensitivity, such as respecting cultural differences and different beliefs. Many students expressed that they learned a variety of new information about different cultures and communities that they had not previously come into contact with. Another similarity discussed among the students was the importance of recognizing the heterogeneity inside of the groups. We learned that community groups often have more intra-group variation among their individual members, as compared to inter-group variation. It quickly became apparent that members of the same community cannot necessarily be easily categorized or stereotyped into one or two broad descriptors.  In this sense, we learned the importance of breaking down barriers, such as stereotypes and assumptions about group needs and desires, in order to deliver the most culturally-relevant and appropriate care.

The feedback that students received from the Community Health Interventions was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of community participants were incredibly appreciative of our work with them in multiple areas. In addition, all of the students were mutually grateful that we were so readily accepted into these different communities. The people we worked with embraced not only our education and teaching, but also our cooperative spirit and developing sense of unity with them.

Southern Nursing Research Society Conference, New Orleans

While in Nursing School, there are a variety of different conferences that students are able to attend, both in the state and nationally. They cover a variety of different topics – for example, the Georgia Association of Nursing Students Convention. Recently, I attended the Southern Nursing Research Society (SNRS) Conference in New Orleans, LA. The theme for the conference was: Nurse Scientists as Crucial Partners to Health Delivery. I was selected to present one of the Top Student Posters at the convention, “Perceived Benefits of the HPV Vaccine by Parents who Reside in Rural Areas.” I had an absolutely great time at the conference, where I experienced and learned so much about the field of nursing research.

My initial experience of becoming interested in Nursing Research began over a year ago. One of the courses I took during the Spring semester of my Junior Year (2011) was an Honors Research course. I began working with faculty member Dr. Tami L. Thomas on her research centering on Parental Perceptions of the HPV vaccine. I chose to work with her for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being that my Grandmother passed away due to complications from cervical cancer before I was born.

Throughout the course of the past year, I worked with Dr. Thomas to conduct my own research on the Perceived Benefits of the HPV Vaccine, specifically focusing on parents in rural Georgia. Dr. Thomas not only guided me, but also genuinely supported me in all of my endeavors throughout the research program. With her help, I learned how to make scholarly posters, presentations, and conduct and analyze quantitative and qualitative research. I had never realized that Nursing Research could involve physically going out into a community in need of help, and actually finding a way to make a difference in the population.

Part of my project involved submitting my research abstract to a conference. I chose to apply to SNRS because they offer a variety of opportunities for student researchers. While the majority of the presenters were in their Doctoral Programs, I was selected as one of the few Undergraduate BSN students. I was able to present my work alongside different PhD students in a Top Student Poster section. In addition, I also participated in a panel discussion focusing on different aspects of conducting student research. Some of the other student presentation topics included: Sleep quality & stress in parents whose children have Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, Managing the healthcare needs of adolescents with Autism, and Children’s perceptions of themselves living with Cystic Fibrosis.

In addition to presenting at the conference, I attended many different sessions and events as well. During the three days of the conference, with over 700 Nurse Researchers/Scientists attending, there were a variety of posters and presentations to view. Some of the presentations that I attended had topics such as: Asthma self-management, Children’s coping behaviors with Autism, the Effects of caffeine & technology on children, Parent’s perceptions of child ICU death, and Predictors of depression in hospital nurses. I found these presentations especially interesting because of their pediatric focus. I also found the session on Clinician Health especially crucial because nurses often forsake their own health when caring for others.

Throughout the conference program, I also attended larger, group-wide events, such as the Opening Keynote with the Dean and Distinguished Professor Dr. Marion Broom from Indiana University School of Nursing. There was also a Plenary Session – SNRS Board Panel: Reference Hearing, a Student Networking Session, and the SNRS Annual Business Meeting. There were a large variety of Nursing Schools present, including Emory School of Nursing, in an Exhibition Hall where they recruited students to MSN, DNP, and PhD programs. Finally, there was a special reception for the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Nurse Faculty Scholars Program – which includes my mentor, Dr. Thomas, in the current 2009 cohort.

Finally, after the Conference concluded, I had some free time to go out and explore the city of New Orleans. I spent some time walking down the *famous/infamous* Bourbon Street, in addition to checking out the well-known Café du Monde and Acme Oyster House. This was the first time that I had ever been to New Orleans, and I thought the city was wonderful. I found the people to be exceptionally friendly and festive, and the building architecture absolutely beautiful.

Overall, I had an amazing time at the conference. I was incredibly impressed by all of the work that my fellow nurses and student nurses are accomplishing. In addition, attending the conference helped to solidify my interest in nursing research and desire to continue conducting research throughout my nursing career.

V.L. Franklin Conference on Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses

One of my many great experiences throughout nursing school, and consequently one of my passions and interests, was my mental health/psychiatric clinical rotation. While working at the Behavioral Health Hospital, Peachford, I found that I truly enjoyed working with the populations there, especially the adolescent group. Because of this, I chose to attend the 2012 Virginia Lee Franklin Memorial Conference, hosted by the Emory University School of Nursing. This year’s topic was “Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses.” Mental health and well-being assessment and treatment should be emphasized in every aspect of nursing, even if a nurse is not specifically working in a behavioral health facility.

The Virginia Lee Franklin Memorial Conference has been held by Emory’s School of Nursing every year for the past few years in honor of former Emory Nursing Student Virginia Lee Franklin. Ms. Franklin graduated from Emory in 1957 with a Master’s Degree in Nursing, with her expertise in neurology. The program brochure stated that she was well-known for being “an excellent teacher, an advocate for the nursing profession, and a compassionate nurse.” Originally, her parents started a fund in her honor, which has since grown into the present day Conference.

The “Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses” topic covered the objectives of discussing psychiatric symptoms commonly seen with physical disorders, describing “red flag” physical symptoms that can be associated with psychiatric disorders, and examining specific physical illnesses commonly associated with psychiatric symptoms. The program faculty included the Dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Linda McCauley, and the main speaker, Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Clinical Adjunct Faculty at Emory’s Department of Behavioral Health and Sciences. In addition, a variety of other well-known School of Nursing Professors and Clinical Faculty Members also participated on the planning committee. The majority of the attendees were nursing students or nurses in the community, with a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of the nursing specialty areas that were represented included: psychiatric, med/surg, neurology, rehabilitation, emergency room, social health, and advanced practice.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison provided an informative, engaging lecture on a variety of different symptoms, both physiological and psychological, in mental health and non-mental health patients. We learned about a variety of different factors that are associated between psychological and physical disorders. For example, we spent time discussing symptoms of Anxiety Disorders (such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), including: increased heart rate, insomnia, nightmares, decreased concentration, irrational thoughts, irritability, and hyper-vigilance, among others. One of the most important things that I learned was to document symptoms of any patient in terms of the following areas: physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. The vast majority of illnesses present with symptoms in a variety of these areas. Therefore, taking an assessment with this framework in mind will help to include as much information as possible in the diagnosis and treatment.

One of the greatest benefits of Emory is having such a strong, interdisciplinary group of schools and departments. In this instance, the School of Nursing and Dr. Harrison, from the Department of Behavioral Health and Sciences, worked together to share their strengths and knowledge with a variety of students and professionals. This Conference is one of many wonderful educational opportunities that nursing students are able to participate in throughout the year.

Senior Year – Topics in Class

The last semester of Senior year is somewhat hectic for most of the students. Not only are we busy keeping up with schoolwork, we’re also applying to jobs, applying to graduate programs, culminating research projects, and practicing for our NCLEX Licensure Exam. In addition, we all have two 12-hour clinical shifts per week. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of free time! Our courses this year are geared towards bringing together all of the fundamental information we’ve learned in the previous three semesters. Senior Year courses include: Synthesis, Core Concepts: Acute Care Nursing, Community Health, Role Transition, and Professional Development: Politics and Public Policy.

Synthesis is a course that focuses on preparing Nursing Students to take the NCLEX Licensure Exam. We take practice quizzes every week on a variety of different topics, such as general Medical/Surgical care, Psychiatrics, Pediatrics, Maternal/Infant Care, and many others. Overall, we’re reviewing what areas we need to review prior to taking the NCLEX exam.

Core Concepts: Acute Care Nursing focuses on the “sickest of the sick.” Many of the patients that nurses come into contact with, especially in the hospital setting, have some type of illness. However, this course instructs students on how to care for the “acute” patients – such as those patients experiencing Hypovolemic Shock and Cardiac Instability. Thus far in the course, we’ve learned a variety of different monitoring devices for patients with Cardiac Output issues (i.e., patients whose hearts aren’t functioning/pumping effectively). In addition, we’ve also learned techniques never before discussed in Nursing School – Emergency/Disaster Nursing. We’ve covered many different subtopics under this umbrella, from care during an environmental emergency (e.g., flood or tornado), to care during biological terrorism events (e.g., Anthrax and Viral Hemorrhagic Fever).

The Community Health Nursing course addresses nursing care on a larger, population-based level. Students participate in a Community Health Clinical two days a week at a variety of different locations, working with vulnerable community groups, such as immigrants and the homeless. As mentioned in some of my previous posts, my clinical is at the Gateway Center in downtown Atlanta. This facility caters to homeless men and women in the area, and provides them with shelter, healthcare, educational opportunities, and assistance finding work.

The additional Clinical course this semester is Role Transition. This course focuses on the students’ involvement and experiences in their Role Transition/Practicum site, where they are placed based on their particular interest. Students participate in either the Community Clinical or the Role Transition Clinical for half of the semester, and then switch mid-way through. I will be finishing up my Community Health Clinical in a few more weeks, after which I will begin my Role Transition Clinical. I’m placed at the Mother-Baby/Postpartum Unit at Emory University Hospital, Midtown. During this clinical, I’ll have two 12-hour shifts to complete each week. It sounds a little hectic, but the students in Role Transition now are somehow managing to meet the requirements, so I know it’s possible!

Our last course is Professional Development: Politics and Public Policy, specifically relating to Healthcare. Because of the rising costs of healthcare, and new policies being enacted regarding healthcare, it is imperative that students become informed and aware of these changes. This course provides invaluable information to us about a variety of different topics, such as the economics of healthcare, healthcare reform, and quality improvement. In addition, we also attend some type of legislative day for this course. I attended the Georgia Nurses Association Legislative Day this past January, where I was able to speak with a variety of senators and representatives about Healthcare delivery.

This is a busy semester for virtually all of the students, but I think we’re gaining information that will be highly useful for our future careers as BSN nurses. I think one of our biggest motivators to keep working through this semester is the countdown to our graduation on May 14th!!

Senior Year – Community Health Clinical

Throughout the last semester of Nursing School, the seniors have either one of two clinicals – Community Health or Role Transition (i.e., practicum/preceptorship). After half of the semester is completed, the students switch from one to the other. For the first half of this year, I’ve been in my Community Health Clinical at the Gateway Center in downtown Atlanta. This facility serves homeless men, women, and children that have come to the Atlanta area for a variety of different reasons.

The Gateway facility is able to provide temporary shelter to these clients, but it places a special emphasis on gaining work and education. Many of the clients are enrolled in a variety of educational or treatment programs in an attempt to restore their lives and regain their independence. The initial intake area is a large, open room with a variety of clientele – all different ages, races, genders, and ethnicities. One of the first things I learned very quickly in this clinical rotation is that there is no stereotypical “face of homelessness.” Many people have preconceived notions about what a homeless man or woman looks like. However, just from working in this Center for only a few weeks, it is quite clear to me that this is not the case at all. Many of the clients we work with were once in very stable positions, but due to some unforeseen event, they have come to find themselves homeless. In fact, one of the staff members of Gateway was even a former client of the facility. Working with this population makes it quite obvious that all of us, no matter what our situation or background, are susceptible to homelessness.

During our clinical shifts at Gateway, we participate in a variety of different activities, such as educational sessions, art therapy, and health fairs. Some of the topics that the clients are most interested in include hypertension, diabetes, stress management, and heart health. We usually get a pretty good turn-out at each event, with a record set for our group of 39 participants in last week’s health fair on Heart Health (conducted by students Chelsea Pharr and Marcus Whitlow). The patients are always especially interested in finding out what their blood pressure is, ways to reduce these numbers, and information on healthy diets. I’ve been so impressed by how interactive and receptive the majority of them are with all of the students; they’re genuinely interested in hearing what health advice we can provide, and ways to improve their situations.

The nursing students at Gateway act in many different roles during the clinicals – student nurse (of course!), educator, counselor, and listener. I’ve found that the latter role, listener, is often one that the clients appreciate most. As our clinical instructors, Prof. Monica Donohue and Jordan Simcox, have informed us – many of these men and women are never even routinely called by their own name when living on the streets. So many of us get caught up in all of the busy work we have to do each day with school, friends, and family, and while this work is difficult and time-consuming, it’s important to think of populations that are quite worse off than us. Imagine living on the street and having most people avert their eyes whenever they walk past you, as if to ward off any type of conversation or pretend you aren’t even there. When a student, or anyone, sits down with any of these men or women and takes the time to talk to them, and especially listen, it truly seems to improve their outlook. Once again, the “art of listening,” that is often highlighted as a gift of nurses, serves to provide a connection with these clients that may have been missing in their lives for quite some time.

Alternative Winter Breaks – Recap of Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica

The weeks following my Alternative Winter Break – Bahamas trip have been both challenging and rewarding. With the start of my final semester in Nursing School, I’ve begun a variety of different tasks and processes to complete my transition from “Student Nurse” to “BSN-prepared Registered Nurse”! There have been so many wonderful moments throughout the past years of Nursing School, but I can’t say I’m not incredibly excited to graduate and begin working. However, that process can still seem quite far away, especially when getting caught up in readings, assignments, papers, quizzes, and tests. I know I’m not alone, though, as many of my fellow Senior Year classmates are always able to provide the exact countdown to graduation – 96 days as of today! Overall, though, it’s the little things throughout the process that make the entire journey worthwhile – one of the most recent ones being the presentations of all the Alternative Winter Break students.

Over 30 Emory School of Nursing students (from juniors to nurses in Master’s programs) traveled to either Jamaica, the Bahamas, or the Dominican Republic in the early part of January. We reconvened just a short while ago to present our trip highlights and information taught (and most importantly – learned) to a variety of fellow students and faculty at the School of Nursing.

The Bahamas group focused on the variety of care that the nurses provide on the rural island of Eleuthera, and the way that these nurses act in a variety of roles that far surpasses the work I’ve ever done as a student nurse. We spent a great deal of time either in the clinics, working directly with these nurses, or at schools providing health talks and education on a variety of topics. The Bahamas group was also especially amazed by the level of community involvement, knowledge, and caring throughout this culture. We couldn’t overemphasize how welcomed, respected, and appreciated we felt throughout the entire trip.

The Dominican Republic group similarly felt this same sense of welcoming and appreciation while they were working with a variety of different patients in the DR. Many of these students were able to work in a maternity/labor & delivery clinic, where they were able to perform perinatal and neonatal assessments, as well as actually deliver some infants! They described how the nurses in this community were able to do so much with the limited resources that they had; a finding also similar in the Bahamas. Many of these students participated in a new infant care system in this clinic known as “Kangaroo Care” – a process in which there is almost constant skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby during the initial days after birth. This Kangaroo Care is able to keep a great deal of premature babies alive at this clinic, despite the fact that they do not have many technologically advanced tools and resources.

The Jamaica group had a variety of different experiences, some of them arguably the most challenging of all three groups. These students explained how the majority of the patients they interacted with were incredibly poor, needy, or abandoned. Much of the time was spent at the “Missionaries of the Poor” Catholic monastery near Kingston, where different missionary Brothers provided care to anyone who was in need. They described the importance of religion in this care, and how it was incorporated into their daily lives. These students also had the initially heartbreaking experience of working with many abandoned and disabled children through this program. The students expressed their initial feelings of overwhelming sadness, but soon learned to see the joy and resilience of these young children. One of the students emphasized how much happiness she found in these patients, despite their obvious hardships. Finally, two of the Missionary Brothers actually came from Jamaica to sing a song for us and promote a concert they are having in March to raise money for the Missionary, which is funded completely through donations.

Overall, it seemed quite clear that all of the students not only had an amazing experience and provided a great deal of teaching while abroad, but they also learned so incredibly much. Some of the common words throughout all three presentations included: “helping,” humbling,” and “enlightening.” We all expressed that all of the hard work before and during the trip was more than paid off whenever we received a smile, hug, or “thank you” from any of the patients we interacted with. We’ve all gained so much respect for these countries, and especially the work that the nurses and medical personnel do there. We’ve learned how dedication, perseverance, and motivation in any situation can enable such incredible things to be accomplished, especially in healthcare settings with such low resources. I’m sure that for many of us, including myself, these trips were some of the best highlights of our entire Student Nursing career.

Day 4 in Eleuthera, Bahamas

For our fourth day on Eleuthera, we had the opportunity for some sight-seeing and touring across the island. Our first stop was to the new Centre for the Arts that is being built in Tarpum Bay, an area that will soon hold an outdoor amphitheatre and stage. In fact, this very stage will hold a concert for Earth Day this coming year with a variety of well-known American artists. While construction is being completed on this new addition to the area, we were also able to see where time has stood still on another part of the island. Part of our tour included visiting the abandoned VentaClub, an Italian resort/club that was abandoned decades ago due to lack of sustainability. As we walked through the remains of the resort, we saw a once beautiful property with direct access to the soft sands of the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the lot was deserted, and is now only minimally maintained by one sole caretaker. VentaClub is not the only abandoned resort on the island; farther down, there is also a deserted and overgrown Club Med that was once a popular, elegant place for tourists.  However, neither of the resorts was properly built for sustainability on the island, and eventually both were simply left as empty buildings.

Despite seeing these beautiful shells of a wealthy time once past, we also saw that many people on the island are busy working hard towards promoting sustainability and sustainable projects on the island. In addition to the new Arts Centre being built in Tarpum Bay, we also visited the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. This area is a 25 acre stretch of land that was renovated through a donation by Mr. Leon Levy to be a preserve to a large variety of native plants, and even some animal species. During the tour, we saw numerous plants that are used for natural bush medicine in Eleuthera, such as certain leaves that one would make into a tonic or tea in order to cure different problems like colds or the flu. In addition to the growth that we were able to see at the Native Plant Preserve, we were also able to see the work the community has done for their own volunteer fire station, which also houses the area’s ambulance. Shaun Ingraham, one of the top community leaders, and the contact from Island Journeys that sets up the Bahamas alternative winter break trips for Emory, even took the student nurses on a special trip on top of the fire truck. Shaun has been incredibly helpful to us the entire time we’ve been here, and has let some of the students stay in his childhood home throughout the trip. Although, I think he may have a special place for Emory in his heart, as he is a master’s graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

After the excitement of taking our first ride on a fire truck, we traveled farther up north to a unique, historical spot known as “Preacher’s Cave”. The specifics behind Preacher’s Cave vary, but the general story is that it is the original founding spot of the Bahamas. There were missionaries traveling throughout the Atlantic Ocean who wrecked their ship on a dangerous spot near Eleuthera called “Devil’s Backbone.” When they survived the shipwreck, they took cover in a nearby cave that came to be known as “Preacher’s Cave.” This is the spot considered to be the founding place of the Bahamas.

Finally, we were allowed a very special treat to attend the Eleuthera Rotary Club’s meeting, where some of the strongest and most progressive leaders in the community meet monthly to discuss community needs and goals. Dr. Thomas has been working with a variety of the Rotary Club members for a number of years now, and they were very excited to meet another group of her nursing students. We all loved the warm, good-humored atmosphere that the members kept even while discussing important events on the island. It was refreshing to see so many people coming together with honest, sincere interest in bettering the island of Eleuthera. And, as we have noticed is custom on Eleuthera, we were made to feel right at home amongst all of the most important members of the community, and like they truly appreciated our work here. I think all of us felt proud of not only ourselves as Emory nurses, but also of the Bahamian nurses that we have learned so much from throughout this journey.

Day 3 in Eleuthera, Bahamas

Today was our third day on Eleuthera, Bahamas. During the morning, my group was sent to Tarpum Bay to work with the nurses in the clinic there. The majority of the clinics in Eleuthera serve a variety of different patients, and they attend to numerous ailments. Each day, they typically have one type of service offered (such as a well-baby clinic day, a day for general ailments, and a day to see the doctor). Wednesday is their well-baby clinic day, so we were able to work with many different children coming in for general check-ups and vaccinations, although some sick children also came in. Once again, the nurses here had to do the initial intake of the patient, assess the child, and then either provide a treatment in the office, or prescribe the appropriate medication to go home with the child. I am continually amazed by the amount of work that they have to do, and the knowledge they must to possess in order to do that work effectively.

After we finished our nursing work during the well-baby clinic (where we made friends with many adorable, tiny patients), we went with the nurses to do two home visits. These home visits are done approximately once a month for patients who are unable to come into the clinic for whatever reason. The nurses go to their houses, perform a general assessment, and determine what the patient’s plan is for the upcoming weeks. One of the aspects of these visits that I found most special is how much the nurses know about the patient’s social history and family history. As one nurse put it, “everyone knows everyone on Eleuthera. Well, almost.” Both patients seemed especially appreciative and happy to see the nurses as they came in to care for them. I was impressed by the way the nurses incorporated their knowledge of the patient’s family history (such as their brother, father, or grandfather having hypertension, diabetes, cancer, etc) into the planning for the patient. The community of Eleuthera is so tightly knit together, and it seems to truly pay off not only through increased social interaction, but also healthcare planning.

Our last stop for the day was at the primary school near the Tarpum Bay clinic to watch the students practice their dance routines for the upcoming Junkanoo Festival. Junkanoo is a masquerade/parade type of street festival common throughout the Bahamas during the month of January. The adults have their own version, and the younger kids celebrate a Junior Junkanoo, where they make elaborate costumes and masks and dance in a street parade with songs and drums. All of the students were busy practicing their dances when we stopped by to see them perform. Even though the dance seemed fairly exhausting under the warm Bahamian sun, the students truly seemed to enjoy themselves and to want to work together on their dance. I thought this was an especially fun way for them to get exercise, given the concern with obesity and diets on the island. One of our own faculty members here with us, Dr. Tami Thomas, had suggested this to the students as a great form of exercise on one of her previous trips to Eleuthera. As Dr. Thomas said, “the people of the island have such a great culture and such great resources here…someone just needs to tap into that, and many of their problems could be solved.”

Finally, at the end of the day, we were surprised by a special visit at our house by some of the local neighborhood children. They came up to our door twice and gave us various little “presents”, such as flowers, berries, and a bracelet. Their kindness and generosity shocked us, and I know it touched my heart. We didn’t have much to offer them in return, but they really weren’t even expecting anything of value from us… They seemed excited when we were able to give them some of our stickers from our previous days of teaching in the schools. We were once again shown how caring this island is, especially in our community of Tarpum Bay. The Bahamians on this island truly have a way of making everyone feel at home, and like we’re part of their family.

Day 2 in Eleuthera, Bahamas

Today was our second day in Eleuthera, where we are volunteering in clinics and schools across the island. My group was sent south on this very long, skinny, beautiful stretch of land to Rock Sound primary clinic and Rock Sound primary school. While at the clinic, we did intake reports on a variety of patients and were able to see some of the common ailments that day: rashes, influenza, back pain, etc. All of the patients seemed incredibly welcoming, receptive, and trusting of us, despite the fact that some of our group are still in the undergraduate nursing program. We were given as much respect as the other healthcare staff (doctors and nurses) in the clinic. During the second day, we were able to spot the continuing theme of autonomy among the nurses of Eleuthera. We were surprised to realize that they function in a variety of rolls, ranging from general nurse, to a sort of nurse practitioner, to pharmacist, to social worker, to friend to all of the patients… (not to mention that the majority of them are also mothers, and sometimes grandmothers, with their very own families to care of as well). I have so much respect for these women and what they are able to accomplish every single day; they never seem to have a minute to spare, and they never waste a minute either. I plan to keep them in my memory when I’m feeling bogged down by finals, clinicals, and work. There are nurses here doing so much more than I could ever have imagined with the limited supplies that they have.

In addition to our wonderful clinic experiences, we also have gone to a couple of different schools from different parts of the island. In one school, we assisted with health screenings of different classes. At the Rock Sound primary school, we gave a presentation on healthy eating and healthy diets to follow. Eleuthera has recently had some issues with a high rate of obesity, as their main food staples are heavy in grains and meat. However, we found out very quickly that these young children (ranging from ages 6-12) are quite well-informed about healthy diets; the issue seems to lie more in access to more fruits and vegetables, and the costs of these items. Another theme we’ve noticed across the island is that of the warm, caring, respectful, good-hearted nature of all the children. While many of us have worked with children previously, and are fond of their sweet ways, we were shocked not only by how respectful and polite these children of Eleuthera were, but also how loving they were. We were given so many hugs and compliments by them, and they were very interested and engaged in all of the work or teaching we did. Almost everyone wanted to listen to their heart or their friend’s heartbeat. They were also interested in taking lots of pictures with us and their friends. Each day that we left, they asked us with huge smiles on their face, “are you coming back tomorrow to see us?” It made me a little sad to let them know that no, I personally wouldn’t be coming, but that some of my friends would for the rest of the week. Some of the older students even asked to be FaceBook friends with us, as opposed to pen pals. It must be a sign of the times and our generation, no matter where you are in the world!

Finally, at the end of the day, we got an hour or so for some relaxation time to take a walk on this beautiful Caribbean beach. As we walked up and down the sand, we were greeted with a friendly “hello, how are you?” or a polite “good evening” by almost everyone we passed. At first, it seemed a little ‘off’ to me…almost a little unnerving for someone to be that friendly without wanting something else from a passerby. Then, I thought that I was probably the one that was a little ‘off’ or out of touch with my people in my own home. I think it’s very easy to take for granted politeness and friendliness in a big city in America; it seems that honking horns, avoiding formalities, and sometimes even rude remarks are the norm there. Here, the people are just truly friendly, caring people. They’re honestly interested in how you’re doing, and they want to make sure you’re enjoying your stay on their small little island, that’s so full of culture and life. As we watched the sun set over this Bahamian island in the Caribbean Sea, I think all of us felt a little more connected with the earth, each other, and everyone on this island. Living in a place like this, I can see why so many people have smiles on their faces all day. I can’t wait to see what excitement, adventures, and interactions tomorrow will bring!