Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jo's Nurse Week 2!

Here I am four days into my first nursing mission, and it is funny to think how far I have already come in the past few days. I was VERY nervous for this trip, which is strange because it is not my first time traveling, and I have even been to Central America before. I was more anxious to participate in this nursing mission experience than any of my military training (Basic Training, Air Assault School, training in El Salvador, Marathons, etc.), and before I arrived I could not place why I was feeling such strong feelings.
After some reflection, I realized that  I was worried that I would not be good enough, not know enough, and not be able to help the people here in the way that I really wished I could. As a new nurse, I still have insecurities about my knowledge, experience, and lack of clinical practice. HOWEVER, lucky for me I am joined in this experience with three other wonderful nurses.I am so grateful for all of the support that JP, Sandie, and Sandy have provided during this trip. Within the first day of meeting everyone it was hard to even remember why I felt so nervous.This experience has a strange sensation of moving by so fast, and yet, I feel like I have been here for a very long time.
Although our first few clinic days started off slow (Easter week is a National holiday), some patients came in and we were able to provide care. I really appreciated how much we all worked as a team and how each nurse supported the other. JP really harped on how important education is for the success and future of the community; we should see each interaction as an opportunity to teach, not only about the presenting problem, but about general health promotion. Education and prevention is the key to health in this community, at home, and all over the world. In addition to providing care for bacterial infections, fungal infections, etc, we provided education on proper hydration, body mechanics, nutrition, and much more. I was so touched by people´s gratitude for us being here and the services we provided. The people have made me feel so welcome, despite my broken Spanish and at times quiet demeanor. It is hard to explain how wonderful, passionate, and strong the people of this community are.
As I was walking down the hill from the clinic yesterday,I saw a small girl playing with a broom and sweeping a tree. Although this image may seem silly or insignificant; seeing this made me smile. I remember seeing a photo of me, at around the same age doing the exact same thing. I feel so grateful for the fortunate circumstances that I was raised in, it really just seems like luck for being born into the life I was brought up in, not having to worry about food, or if I could go to the doctors, or if I could afford to go to High School. This experience has significantly contributed to my passion for the career that I am choosing to enter. I am so excited to start working as an Army Nurse next month, and to finally gain the clinical experience, skill and knowledge that I so strongly crave. This experience has truly been both life changing and career changing. I feel a strong pull to work in underserved communities, whether they are at home or abroad. I know that I will return to Central America as a nurse; next time with experience under my belt, and a lot better Spanish. Until then, I will remember this truly amazing experience, and the wonderful people that I have met and learned from along the way

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jo's Nurses in El Remate, Guatemala

I initially applied for Jo´s Nurses because I wanted an experience that would change my life forever, cement my desire to get involved in humanitarian nursing, and to make a difference. I knew that this trip would make me appreciate life in so many more ways and so far, it certainly has. As nurses we are inherently compassionate people, but experiencing poverty in another country really forces you to open your heart, your mind, and your soul in a way you never thought was possible.
I was extremely excited prior to leaving for Guatemala. I don´t claim to be a seasoned traveler by any means, but I have traveled internationally in the past so I wasn´t too worried
about what I was going to be faced with. When I arrived in El Remate however, I had such complete culture shock. I wasn’t nearly as mentally prepared as I thought I was. I think as people we tend to shelter ourselves unknowingly, constantly gravitating towards familiarity and comfort. But the beauty of being human is that we have the ability to learn from all of our interactions with every single person that comes into our lives, even if it´s through a passing moment. Being a nurse is so incredibly rewarding because as much as we touch the lives of our patients, they touch ours as well. Everyone has a story. And the people of Guatemala certainly have their own to share.
Working at Ix-Canaan has been an unbelievable experience. It has been challenging, because there are no physicians here. What this means is that JP and I have been solely running the clinic, diagnosing, prescribing medication, and managing care for the people we have been seeing. We´ve seen everything, from a woman who had a systolic blood pressure in the 200s, to a woman who came in with a UTI. I think the most exciting experiences I have had so far was listening for a fetal heart rate using a Doppler and helping JP suture a full thickness laceration on a young man who had gotten into a bar fight the night before. These are things that I haven´t had the chance to do back at home. The most difficult part about this has been trying to think outside the box. Supplies are really limited here. It´s amazing how much we take for granted sometimes - things such as normal saline or syringes are so hard to come by. And so we have to be creative. We have to be resourceful. I have to think
in ways that I wouldn´t normally have to back at home. When a 15 year old pregnant teenager walked into the clinic, and I was told that this was very normal in Guatemala, I was forced to reevaluate my own expectations, judgments, and values.  I have, without a doubt, not only grown as a nurse here, but as a person as well.
I don´t think I was quite prepared for the level of poverty that I am seeing here in Guatemala. You hear about it and you read about it, but until you´re actually standing there, the reality of it just hits you like a brick wall. What I find incredible though, is that those that have nothing, in my opinion, have everything. They have so much happiness, love, and warmth. They are so full of life. The Guatemalan people have been such amazing hosts to us. They enjoy life´s simple pleasures and the beauty of every moment. It has been a true blessing to have this opportunity, and it´s something that I will never forget. The best part about all of this though, is that without a doubt in my mind, I will be back.