We pulled into the driveway at Hotel Nicarao at 11:30 last night, exhausted from finals being over and a long day of traveling! After a quick discussion of the following morning, we all stumbled into our rooms to sleep. In the early morning, we were awoken by the calls of doves outside our windows. After showers and donning our scrubs, we all made our way to the lobby for our first Nicaraguan meal!
The lobby of the hotel is open to the outside and surrounded by a beautiful patio, which looks out onto the bustling and narrow streets of the city of Rivas. Even at the early hour of 7am, many people were already walking down the streets and driving their motor bikes.
Several tables were set up in front of the large open doors to the patios, and they were decorated with crocheted table cloths and little Christmas decorations! (Which felt odd, considering it was already 80 degrees outside). We were served orange juice, deliciously strong coffee, fresh papaya and pineapple, and for the entree, something Nicaraguans call “Gallo Pinto,” a tasty meal of eggs scrambled with ham and rice and beans on the side.
Gladys and Ursula, our instructors, helped us with some last minute preparations for the day by reminding us to fill our water bottles and ironing our many wrinkled lab coats, and then we were off to the hospital!
A short drive through the narrow streets of Rivas brought us to a bright pink, one-story-tall building outside of the city, the hospital where we would be spending the next few days! We entered and were welcomed by Nicaraguan Christmas music, a wonderfully decorated tree, and a happy, smiling receptionist! My eyes were immediately drawn to the brightly colored walls and the tree-filled courtyard around the corner. Very different from our hospitals in America with white walls and windowless hallways, this hospital was open to the outside air in various places, with many large windows, colorful paintings, and music filling the rooms. Hallways between hospital sections were surrounded by courtyards, and Nicaraguan flag posters were located on every few yards of walls space. Displayed on the walls of the hallways was various information on public health issues afflicting the country: posters on Zika and Dengue fever, as well as posters supporting breast feeding and maternal health.
We all eventually made our way to the hospital conference room, and were greeted by nurse leaders, doctors, and administrators. We began introductions with a prayer led by the Director of Nursing, and then joined them in standing for the Nicaraguan National Anthem. Next, several Nicaraguan nursing students and nurses gave us presentations on their hospital research. We talked quietly amongst ourselves, excitedly commenting on the fact that they were using nursing models we also use at Emory! Discussion followed, and the American students and Nicaraguan nurses got to ask each other many questions, utilizing translators and elementary understandings of each other’s languages.
After a short reception filled with laughter, smiles, and compliments in “Spanglish,” we made our way to our various rotation assignments. We split into groups of four, spending time in the emergency room, post-op and orthopedic departments. My partner, Meghan and I helped hold down a four-year-old child while the doctor sewed up a large gash on his head. He had been playing on a table at home and fell from quite a height! His mother cried from nerves, but he didn’t even utter a whimper! We told him he was “muy bravo” (very brave), and he and his mother gave us big smiles and nods.
Walking down the halls, we spotted stray cats and dogs milling about the courtyards and near patients’ rooms. Patients were wheeled on stretchers through the open-aired hallways from one area department to another. Music played continuously and the nurses and doctors chatted and laughed with one another, often staring at us as we walked by. As the clock ticked by, the day got hotter and hotter. Unable to shed our lab coats, we suffered in the heat, noticing changes in our moods as the humidity increased. Although we may have appeared sleepy-eyed and over-heated, we merrily continued on through our day, not stopping until the clock reached 5pm.
Departing the hospital, we climbed into the gloriously air-conditioned van, and drove the five minutes back to our hotel. As motorbikes passed by us on the street, we walked back into our rooms to collapse on our beds for a brief moment before getting ready for dinner. The proceedings for the following day were decided during our dinner discussion, and it was mutually agreed upon that we learned and saw quite a lot of new things in just the past 10 hours. What an incredibly rewarding experience this has already been…. I am so amazed at how different, yet similar, nursing practice can be in two countries. We all definitely agree on one thing: we cannot wait for what tomorrow will bring!