On Thursday, June 26th, eleven (11) intrepid nursing students from the Emory School of Nursing’s Distance Accelerated BSN program embarked upon a two week immersive population health clinical practicum in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. After a short 1-1/2 hour flight from Miami, our first glimpse of Haiti was from above, eagerly peering through the airplane windows. Striking was the turquoise colored water that was so clear it allowed unobstructed views deep beneath the ocean’s surface. Then, starkly contrasting nature’s splendor, the cityscape began to come into view showing dense clustering of buildings and people. Clouds of smoke dotted the landscape which we later witnessed was from the burning pile of trash. Our plane continued its descent and soon we were on the ground, the plane filling with the applause of passengers aboard. Upon landing and deplaning, we were warmly welcomed and greeted by a local Haitian band. With traditional music playing, we made our way through passport control and collected our bags from baggage claim which contained many medical supplies and donations that students brought with them, including collectively ~20 lbs of suckers for the pediatric population (adults, too) that we would be serving during this clinical rotation. Once outside the airport, we boarded our bus and began our trek to the hotel, the Cormier La Plage. Our population health assessment began in earnest as we viewed the street scenes. We observed massive traffic, mostly of motorcycles and automobiles, racing and swerving with no stoplights, signs or speed limits, all avoiding the dips and broken pavement. The buildings seemed to be in various states of decay/repair, affected by earthquakes, hurricanes and overpopulation which have affected the island. The greatest contrast, against the backdrop of the beauty of Haiti, were the waste disposal issues, trash covering the beach and roadways and the acrid smell of burning trash filled our nostrils.
We arrived safely at the Cormier La Plage, we were again struck by the beauty of Haiti – the waves crashing on the beach, palm trees swaying and bright blue skies. We had made it! As we settled into our rooms and unpacked, we met for a debriefing of our first impressions and an overview of our itinerary. As we arrived safely at the Cormier La Plage, we were again struck by the beauty of Haiti – the waves crashing on the beach, palm trees swaying and bright blue skies. We had made it! As we settled into our rooms and unpacked, we met for a debriefing of our first impressions and an overview of our itinerary, ready for an experience of a lifetime.