Tag Archive for Alternative Winter Break

An experience in public health — Alternative winter break in Nicaragua

Ali Martin, BSN Class of 2017, BUNDLE Scholar

As a Building Undergraduate Nursing’s Diverse Leadership at Emory Scholar (BUNDLES), I have been given many opportunities to be immersed in public health seminars, lectures, and value adds. This program prepared me for my alternative winter break trip to Nicaragua in December where I was able to serve a vulnerable population in need. I traveled to a city in Nicaragua called Rivas, where I rotated with my peers through their local public hospital. We learned how their health care system worked and how they cared for their patients.

In my first day in the hospital, I was humbled by how privileged we are in the United States when it comes to our health care system. I watched the nurses in Rivas use all the resources they had — which were not many, in order to give the best quality care to their patients. For example, the nurses used gloves as tourniquets, rather than protective personal equipment. They also used leftover medication vials as specimen collectors for urine and stool samples. I watched them perform these tasks and admired the depths they went to when caring for their patients.

The nurse to patient ratio was nearly 1:10 and the nurses worked hard to attend to each patient in a timely manner. With minimum resources available, the nurses shared blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. Unfortunately, the equipment was hardly ever sanitized between use as there was barely enough solutions to clean the equipment in the proper aseptic manner. Although this hospital suffered from a lack of resources, the nurses and health care providers always put their patients first and made sure that they received the best quality of care. They had the biggest hearts and were so eager to teach us with their knowledge and about their health care system. I appreciated their kindness and helped in any way I could.

We spent the first two days in Rivas at the local hospital. After that, we traveled to a small, rural community called El Tambo that invited us to educate them on health care in the United States. We decided to focus on screening and prevention of common diseases that had the highest incidence in their specific population.

We arrived that afternoon and I thought we were just making a stop on the side of the road when our bus suddenly pulled over. I was taken aback when I realized that we were actually in El Tambo. The homes were small shacks with no electricity or running water, however this was home to them and they would have it no other way. They greeted us all with kind smiles and were genuinely happy to have us in their community. They brought us to the local “church” which was just a pavilion with a small stage. We broke off into groups and each took turns presenting the screening material we prepared before the trip. My group focused on breast cancer self exams, because the community had asked us to teach them about breast cancer prevention. We educated them on the pathophysiology of cancer and then went on to show them how to properly perform a breast self exam. They demonstrated back on how to do the breast self exams themselves and we finished our presentation filling fulfilled that we had taught them something new that would benefit their health for the future.

The other groups presented on other common disease processes like diabetes and hypertension. The community and families were so grateful that we were there that they prepared us a homemade meal that was commonly made in their village. We were almost in tears from their generosity. They purified the water so we could drink it, and then they sat back and watched us eat, not even eating themselves.

This trip taught me a lot about the importance of public health, not only in the United States, but also in other countries. Primary and secondary prevention efforts are vital in keeping populations healthy wherever it may be in the world. I will take this experience and what I learned from it throughout my entire nursing career.

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Ali Martin is a graduating BSN senior from Blue Ridge, Georgia. In addition to being a BUNDLE scholar, she is involved on campus in organizations such as Atlanta Pediatric Cancer Outreach and as a peer mentor for the School of Nursing.

Alternative Winter Breaks – Recap of Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica

The weeks following my Alternative Winter Break – Bahamas trip have been both challenging and rewarding. With the start of my final semester in Nursing School, I’ve begun a variety of different tasks and processes to complete my transition from “Student Nurse” to “BSN-prepared Registered Nurse”! There have been so many wonderful moments throughout the past years of Nursing School, but I can’t say I’m not incredibly excited to graduate and begin working. However, that process can still seem quite far away, especially when getting caught up in readings, assignments, papers, quizzes, and tests. I know I’m not alone, though, as many of my fellow Senior Year classmates are always able to provide the exact countdown to graduation – 96 days as of today! Overall, though, it’s the little things throughout the process that make the entire journey worthwhile – one of the most recent ones being the presentations of all the Alternative Winter Break students.

Over 30 Emory School of Nursing students (from juniors to nurses in Master’s programs) traveled to either Jamaica, the Bahamas, or the Dominican Republic in the early part of January. We reconvened just a short while ago to present our trip highlights and information taught (and most importantly – learned) to a variety of fellow students and faculty at the School of Nursing.

The Bahamas group focused on the variety of care that the nurses provide on the rural island of Eleuthera, and the way that these nurses act in a variety of roles that far surpasses the work I’ve ever done as a student nurse. We spent a great deal of time either in the clinics, working directly with these nurses, or at schools providing health talks and education on a variety of topics. The Bahamas group was also especially amazed by the level of community involvement, knowledge, and caring throughout this culture. We couldn’t overemphasize how welcomed, respected, and appreciated we felt throughout the entire trip.

The Dominican Republic group similarly felt this same sense of welcoming and appreciation while they were working with a variety of different patients in the DR. Many of these students were able to work in a maternity/labor & delivery clinic, where they were able to perform perinatal and neonatal assessments, as well as actually deliver some infants! They described how the nurses in this community were able to do so much with the limited resources that they had; a finding also similar in the Bahamas. Many of these students participated in a new infant care system in this clinic known as “Kangaroo Care” – a process in which there is almost constant skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby during the initial days after birth. This Kangaroo Care is able to keep a great deal of premature babies alive at this clinic, despite the fact that they do not have many technologically advanced tools and resources.

The Jamaica group had a variety of different experiences, some of them arguably the most challenging of all three groups. These students explained how the majority of the patients they interacted with were incredibly poor, needy, or abandoned. Much of the time was spent at the “Missionaries of the Poor” Catholic monastery near Kingston, where different missionary Brothers provided care to anyone who was in need. They described the importance of religion in this care, and how it was incorporated into their daily lives. These students also had the initially heartbreaking experience of working with many abandoned and disabled children through this program. The students expressed their initial feelings of overwhelming sadness, but soon learned to see the joy and resilience of these young children. One of the students emphasized how much happiness she found in these patients, despite their obvious hardships. Finally, two of the Missionary Brothers actually came from Jamaica to sing a song for us and promote a concert they are having in March to raise money for the Missionary, which is funded completely through donations.

Overall, it seemed quite clear that all of the students not only had an amazing experience and provided a great deal of teaching while abroad, but they also learned so incredibly much. Some of the common words throughout all three presentations included: “helping,” humbling,” and “enlightening.” We all expressed that all of the hard work before and during the trip was more than paid off whenever we received a smile, hug, or “thank you” from any of the patients we interacted with. We’ve all gained so much respect for these countries, and especially the work that the nurses and medical personnel do there. We’ve learned how dedication, perseverance, and motivation in any situation can enable such incredible things to be accomplished, especially in healthcare settings with such low resources. I’m sure that for many of us, including myself, these trips were some of the best highlights of our entire Student Nursing career.