By Colleen Closson and Sophie Katz
Night Camp is what all seasoned participants of the Farm Worker Family Health Program call the flood of medical professionals and students at the farms where the migrant farm workers work.
After a day’s work at the elementary school and a generous lunch put on by one of many wonderful churches in the local Moultrie area, we have about three and a half hours to rest. Since the work never stops, more than a few of us study or read for class. At 6 p.m. sharp, we are expected to be ready to put our cars in drive to follow the caravan of volunteers out to the farm.
It is astounding to see the sheer number of people, supplies, and equipment necessary to set up a makeshift medical center in rural Georgia. The phrase, “It takes a village” is made manifest in the areas we create. Around 8 p.m., farm workers leave their barracks to visit our stations.
BSN nursing students provide screening stations, including checking blood pressures, measuring height and weight to calculate BMI, checking blood glucose and hemoglobin levels, and providing foot care to those who request it. BSN students are also responsible for intake and beginning the charting that is required for each patient.
Every man (and almost all our night camp patients are men) comes for different reasons. Some are aware of the services offered and want a specific need met, such as dental care (provided by dental hygienist students from Clayton State during Week 1, and from Central Georgia Technical College during Week 2). Others may have some sort of pain or muscular issue, and they may see a physical therapist student (Georgia State physical therapy students were present during Week 1, and Brenau University physical therapy students are present for Week 2).
Many are unaware of what we are there for and walk up just to see what is going on. At the intake table, the farm workers are asked what their needs are and how we can best meet them. This can be quite the feat at times—although some on our trip speak Spanish fluently, others may have only had a few classes years ago, leading to difficulties in communication that often require the aid of an interpreter.
Providing care at the night camps is certainly an exercise in humility and patience, and there are more than a few laughs over fumbled words and mispronunciations.
As we have moved around various stations, we have learned how to interact with our patients in various ways based on what the situation requires. Taking a blood glucose level, for example, is very different than providing foot care. Furthermore, we’ve learned how critical patience is in this process, and we are also grateful for the patience of the farm workers as we have learned.