Nurses from Hudson Valley not only care for patients in the facilities in which they are employed but they also travel to other countries, helping those in need and bringing them needed medications and supplies.
Jill Ratner, MD, a pediatrician from Mount Kisco Medical Group, instituted a relief program called Hands Up for Haiti in the northern Westchester community after the earthquake in Haiti. During two trips last year to Haiti, Ratner brought groups of nurses, physicians and others to Cap-Haitien, Limonade, Anse Bord de Mer du Limbe and Bois de Lance.
We saw patients, many of whom had never seen a physician and who had minor illnesses as well as those who were very sick with cholera and other diseases, said Amy Parkin, RN, ED staff nurse at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Using medications they brought with them, nurses treated wound infections, lacerations, cellulitis, parasitic infections, such as scabies, ear and eye infections and respiratory illnesses.
We also focused our efforts on helping the people with healthcare prevention practices. For example, we explained the need to boil water to prevent worms and to change the bedding to prevent scabies, Parkin said.
As a member of the Institute for Latin American Concern, Lynda Bromberg, RN, CNOR staff nurse at White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital, travels to the Dominican Republic every year to provide nursing care in the operating room. ILAC partners with the Volunteer Health Program, which focuses on the medical and surgical eye care to underserved rural areas in Central America and the Dominican Republic.
A few days before the clinic opens, Bromberg and a few others transform empty rooms into three areas: one for screening and eye testing, another for fitting for corrective lenses and a third for surgery. Despite the old autoclave named Big Bertha and poor air conditioning, the ILAC team performs more than 250 surgeries on each visit, which include oculoplasty, cataract and plastic surgery for those who are disfigured.
Every day, nurses on mission trips learn about the cultural beliefs and healthcare practices of the people. Bromberg learned about the strong faith and trust the people of the DR have for the medical professionals who come to care for them. They never complain, and when you ask them to lie still, they dont move, even though they are lying on simple, uncomfortable OR beds, Bromberg said.
When the nurses in Haiti gave families a one-month supply of multivitamins, they realized that some of the children ate the vitamins on their way home. For those with scabies, we applied the medication right at the clinic, and then asked patients to remove the medication when it became dark because they didnt have watches, Ratner said.Lynda Bromberg, RN, CNOR staff nurse at White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital, right, travels to the Dominican Republic every year, and her mother Anna Watson, left, has joined her on some of the mission trips.
Katie Lynn, RN, ICU staff nurse at NWH, said, I learned that in the Haitian culture, patients feel better when they take something home with them, whether it be something as simple as antacids and multivitamins or treatment for an actual disease. Also a member of the Hands Up for Haiti program, Danielle D. Kitai, RN, case manager at Saint Francis Hospital Certified Home Care in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was inspired by the strength and dignity of Haitians. I find that working with them helps to center me, gives me a reality check as to what is really important in life, she said.
Ratner and other members of the Hands Up for Haiti program are putting together a handbook for volunteers interested in joining them on one of the four missions planned for 2011. Included in the brochure will be the basic how-tos, such as what to pack, what shots to get, what paperwork is needed and what to expect when you are in Haiti.
We also want to work with the Ministry of Health in Haiti, so that we can work with the government there to set up sustainable programs. For example, to help those with TB or HIV disease, Ratner said. The group already has started to develop ongoing relationships with Haitian physicians and nurses and plans on continuing these efforts this year.
Bromberg echoed the sentiment of every nurse who chooses to participate in a mission trip when she said, The trips have brought the joy of nursing to a whole new level for me.