During the month of June 2016, I began my journey as part of the Farm Worker Family Health Program with 14 amazing classmates, nurse practitioner students from Emory, and with students from dental hygiene, physical therapy, and pharmacy programs in Georgia. Located in the South part of the state, Moultrie is a small town home to such appreciative migrant farm workers and children, and generous people who volunteered to provide us with breakfast and lunch, supplies, donations for the farm workers and children, and a place to stay. As part of the Farm Worker Family Health Program, which sends nursing students to Moultrie every year, our goal was to work with an interdisciplinary team and to use the skills and knowledge we learned in our public health, health assessment, and rural health courses and from our clinicals in order to provide health care to a population who faces limited access to care and experiences difficulty overcoming language barriers.
For two weeks, our schedule went as follows: visiting the local elementary school every morning Monday through Friday from 8am until 12 noon, having lunch at a local church around 1pm, resting from 4 to 6pm, and then preparing to go to night camp every afternoon Monday through Thursday from 7pm to midnight and set up mobile stations at local farm camps. Every morning, we drove in carpool groups to Cox Elementary School which was about a five minute drive from the hotel where we were staying at. There, we set up auditory, vision, blood glucose and hemoglobin, height/weight/BMI, and blood pressure stations in order to screen children part of the Migrant Farm Worker summer school program. The purpose of screening each child was to complete a Georgia 3300 public health form so that these kids would have the opportunity to enroll in school if they were to move to a county due to migrant family circumstances. We took turns gathering groups of children and taking them to the nurse practitioners, dental hygienists, or physical therapists for them to receive their check-ups.
In the late afternoon, we prepared for night camp by gathering our flashlights and head lights, spraying ourselves from head to toe in mosquito repellant, and practicing some phrases in Spanish to communicate well with our clients. Our trip began by caravanning to the farm camp for that night. At arrival, we set up tents with stations for intake, blood pressure, hemoglobin and blood glucose, height/weight/BMI, and foot care, while the nurse practitioners, dental hygienists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and research students set up their own tables. Nursing students were paired with one or two more nursing students in the group and assigned to a different station each night, so we each had a chance at each station. Believe it or not, my favorite station was foot care. I enjoyed the time I spent with each of the clients and the opportunities to talk to them in Spanish. One thing I enjoyed doing was adding humor to my conversations to help the farm workers feel relaxed and less embarrassed about a nursing student taking care of their feet. Additionally, I took the time to assist the nurse practitioners, dental hygienists, pharmacists, and physical therapists with interpretation since I am fluent in Spanish. During this experience, it was important to note that the care we provide to the migrant farm workers and their families might have been the only health care they receive throughout the year. For me, it was important to communicate well with the clients to make sure we gathered the correct information to assess, diagnose, and educate. There were several moments during my time in Moultrie when the farm workers came up to tell my classmates and I how grateful they were for all that we were doing for them and the time and effort we dedicated to help them.
An exciting part of my Moultrie experience was the opportunity to experience being out in the fields to pick out vegetables for ourselves. Going into the fields and picking out vegetables opened my eyes and increased my awareness of the importance of the work by the migrant farm workers. Since this experience, I have not forgetten where my food comes from and who picked it, and have thanked farm workers for their important job.
My time in Moultrie was a lifetime experience as I made new friends, met some hardworking and humble workers, and gave to a population who provides so much to us. Moultrie holds a special place in my heart. Honestly, I wish I could have been there much longer, and hopefully one day, I will have the opportunity to return and do much more. The need for healthcare services is so great in this area and with this population and it brought such a warm feeling to my heart to be able to share a laugh with the farm workers and with the kids despite the life situations they must face. My experience with the Farm Worker Family Health program has been very rewarding and very meaningful, because it proved to me that engaging in a nursing career was the best decision I have made.