As nursing students, we spent the three weeks prior to our journey down to Moultrie learning about community and public health. There is so much to learn about these topics, and I found them exciting because I enjoy looking at things from a “big picture” perspective. But one of the things that rarely gets mentioned about trips like this — situations in which students are providing care and learning about cultural barriers, health disparities, and social determinants of health — are the nitty gritty, day-to-day nursing tasks we perform. For me, a big picture thinker, work like this is so imperative to becoming a professional nurse. It might seem simple, but it’s important for me to remember that if I hope to work in a resource-poor setting in the future, I have to know how to take a manual blood pressure accurately — there might not be a fancy machine around to do it for me. I need to have a solid understanding of how a child’s BMI differs from that of an adult’s. I have to understand the implications of a low Hemoglobin reading, and what I can tell a patient that I may only encounter once what he can do about it.
The work we do — the actual nursing skills we implement every morning at the elementary school and every night at the farmworker camps — are such a formative part of this experience. Every day, we find ways to be resourceful. If something doesn’t make it into the van and get transported to the camp, we make do. If we run out of the type of lancet we were trained with, we put aside our apprehension about using a new kind. I think the opportunity to implement these basic skills in this chaotic environment helps to prepare me for any kind of high pressure, high stress situation I might encounter as a nurse.
Here’s a few photos of our team at work in Moultrie:
Photos by Laura Garcia, Becca Owings, and Nicole Makris