Archive for The Bahamas

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!

Only the Beginning…

At 5:30 am, the roosters begin to crow! We are awakened but struggle to enjoy the final two hours of sleep left before it was actually time to get dressed and head out for our busy first service day. We all met promptly at 8:15am ready to divide into our groups of three for our daily assignments. Before departing, we were fortunate enough to meet Mr. Shaun Ingraham. He shared with us the efforts of One Eleuthera, including strengthening Eleuthera’s economy and healthcare system. Most notably, Eleuthera will be hosting the first “Earth Day” benefit concert here on the island on April 22nd which I found to be very exciting news!
We all then went our separate ways into Elethera’s primary and high schools, and also the clinics for an exciting day of learning, teaching, and healing!

I was assigned to Tarpum Bay clinic, just blocks away from where we are staying. As we arrived to the pink building, home of the post office, police station, and clinic, I grew more eager to get inside. My group members, Lauren Settle and Brette Winston and I met Nurse Ingraham, Nurse Rolle, Mrs. Kayla and Sabrina Clark, the Tarpum Bay Clinic staff, who welcomed us in and put us to work right away after a grand tour and information session. I did patient intake, signing patients in, weighing them, and directing them to the “Nurse’s Office/ exam rooms.” I also did blood pressure checks for a few patients. Both Brette and Lauren did patient interviewing and patient assessments.
What stood out to me the most was the autonomy of the nurses and the courage within them. Despite their limited medical supply, lack of informational resources, and growing number of clients waiting to be seen, the nurses operated smoothly with content embrace for each patient. They were so pleasant and extremely helpful, sharing their expertise with us and encouraging us in our efforts.Angels Camp

I learned more details of Eleuthera’s healthcare disparities and the government funded insurance that assists people over the age of 65 and people with diabetes or asthma. Children, students under 18, and patients requiring family planning services or antenatal care are seen free of charge, Some of the major health concerns here on the island include chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, the Herpes Simplex virus.
According to a Tarpum Bay staff member and a male patient, more emphasis should be on “role changing behavior.” Nurse Rolle stated, “People here just will not eat better foods when they know it is not good for them, they love to eat what tastes good.”

My group members and I were prepared to share lesson plans covering healthy lifestyles and preventing obesity, but it was elected that we discuss STD’s by the young Nurse Cadets, five high school females desiring to become nurses. With them, we played a candy trading game to simulate the spread of STD’s and led a discussion session covering abstinence, the Human Papillomavirus and vaccine, and Herpes and allowed the girls to ask questions. We got exceptional feedback following our presentation which made us very happy to know we had shared valuable knowledge.
Around 4:30pm, my group and I returned to our houses, where we reflected on the day and gave each other our analyses and ideas. Some of us then completed our day with a relaxing, inspiring walk around the beautiful island before dinner. I was not entirely surprised, but amazed by the strength of the people here. Today was only the beginning of this journey that opened our eyes to an island dedicated to community and faith.

Sun, Sand and SEEP

The view from our house

The view from our house

Our journey in Eleuthera, the Bahamas began on Saturday with our arrival onto the island. It is a beautiful island with stunning beaches and gorgeous crystal clear water. In our first few days, we were immersed in Bahamian culture – going to church, visiting the beach, taking part in a Bahamian Homecoming and enjoying local food. We also have seen some of the health disparities that exist on Eleuthera: lack of consistent power and potable water in some communities, dumping trash on the sides of the road and the beaches, and the expense of food that is mostly imported, to name a few.

One of our main goals while here is to evaluate what the Bahamian communities we are partnering with hold as priorities for their health and then assessing what the strengths and areas of growth exist. The community leaders gathered together today to discuss the ideas for One Eleuthera – an overarching program to join together and unite all the health programs on the island. Many of the themes that arose during the meeting centered around emergency care for Eleuthera. The South Eleuthera Emergency Partners (SEEP) is a group of citizens that is committed to emergency care in the southern part of the island. There is an emergency program for the central part of the island called HACE. And in the northern part of the island, emergency care is dependent upon the separate settlements. These agencies along with several other health organizations make up the health initiatives on the island. Our plan right now is to evaluate several of these programs in the next week and then to explore how well these programs are promoted and utilized in the communities.

Today our group went out in pairs and trios to four of the island’s clinics. Everyone had a little bit of a different experience, but each one of us enjoyed a rich day of learning  about the Bahamian health system and growing as student nurses. I had quite the adrenaline rush when I was doing intake with one patient, and the patient began to have a seizure. As he fell toward me, I was able to lower him to the ground, make sure he had an open airway, and hold his head as he continued to seize. Since the doctor was at our clinic, we were able to transfer the patient to the “Emergency Room” (a small room off of the waiting area) where he was well cared for over the next few hours. It was a very heart-pumping experience! I’ll leave you with a picture of the beautiful landscape.