By CRISTINA JANNEY
Fort Hays State University Nursing Associate Professor Kathleen Ward has been taking FHSU nursing students on overseas summer learning trips for 10 years, but after she took a group to Dominican Republic, she knew that is where she and her students were most needed.
“I needed to be taking these students to a third-world country where they can provide actual nursing care to people who really need it. There are people who are really in need,” Ward said.
Ward and 10 BSN students will be traveling to San José de las Matas, Dominican Republic June 8-22. The students have all taken a one-hour preparatory course for the trip this spring.
The students will be working with Medical Ministry International, a non-profit group that provides medical relief across the globe. Ward became acquainted with the group when one her students moved to the Dominican Republic to work with the group.
Physicians, specialists and dentists from across the United States also volunteer with the program. Ward’s husband is a dentist and has traveled with the nurses in the past, but will be unable to this year.
“That is another thing that is nice,” Ward said. “These people get to see how that interprofessional part of nursing [works]. … These physicians are very open. They are very willing to teach. They want to let the nursing students do whatever they can to get the best experience. It’s a fabulous experience.”
The students will rotate through a variety of duties during their time in the Dominican, including pre- and post-operative care, working in a traveling clinic, working in the pharmacy, providing medication education, and teaching health education and proper hygiene.
“It is a major need,” Ward said of health care in the Dominican. “Some of them are poor and so they have a larger need. Every year we have numerous people who come and need surgeries. One year we went, and there was this baby who had a cleft lip.”
Many of the procedures would be considered basic health care in the United States, Ward said. The surgical suite in the hospital at San José de las Matas is only open while the mission volunteers are there.
The students happened to be working at the hospital when a patient accidentally cut off his fingers. The clinic also regularly sees patients with major infections who have no other access to medical care.
Education and prevention is important as well, Ward said. The water is unsafe to drink, so the students teach residents how to purify their water. They teach youth how to brush their teeth and women about female hygiene.
“They teach how to prevent sexually transmitted infections, because that is rampant down there,” Ward said.
In addition to providing life-changing medical services, Ward said the students receive valuable training.
“I think it is important for those students because it give them a greater appreciation of what nursing really can do,” she said. “It gives you a gratification. These people are so appreciative. They are so happy for you to do anything for them. If you give them a Band-Aid, they’re happy, which is totally different than the health care in the United States. …
“It gives you that self-fulling feeling that you are really helping people.”
She said the trips also give students an opportunity to meet and work with people of different cultures.
“They just have a better understanding of how to care for people,” she said. “Even when they go out in their own practice when they graduate and move on, they are going to have a greater appreciation for somebody who comes in and is of a different nationality, who can’t speak our language, because most of these students don’t speak Spanish.”
The Spanish dialect spoken in the Dominican is unique to the region, and Medical Ministry International uses interpreters.
Meagan Karlin, 22, is graduating this weekend with her BSN. She went on the Dominican trip last summer.
“I learned so much about the therapeutic relationship. I did not speak the language, and we had to find other ways to communicate,” she said. “I see how fortunate and blessed we are. I think we take for granted running water. We have water to run to brush our teeth, but they have no access to clean water.”
The residents in the Dominican have to pay for water and haul it to their homes. They can’t get it out of sink. So they told Karlin they had to use their water sparingly.
“They said, ‘I have to make it as long as I can.’ It was very sad,” Karlin said.
She said working in pre- and post-op had a substantial effect on her.
“I think the biggest thing was when I was working in the hospital. A 22-year-old came in for breast reduction. She came by herself,” Karlin said. “She was the same age as me. She was surrounded by strangers. They tried to get a spinal epidural in for surgery three times.
“As they tried to get that in, I tried to gain her trust. We developed a relationship. I told her it was OK. We connected on a whole other level. I was with her through surgery and post-op until she was able to go home.”
Karlin said she learned much about the Dominican culture, which is based heavily on relationships with friends and family, and their religion, which is primarily Catholic.
“I talked to a woman who had lost her son. She had lost so many family members. I told her I was sorry to hear that. She said she was OK with it because he was with the Lord and that she would get there eventually,” Karlin said. “They are so thankful for the small things.”
The students are selling FHSU-branded nursing merchandise to raise funds for the trip. Each nurse has to raise $950 for airfare and another $1,400 to pay for lodging, transportation and food while they are in the Dominican.
They are also trying to collect medical supplies for the trip.
This includes over-the-counter basics, such as vitamins and ibuprofen. Prenatal vitamins are especially needed. Medications must be unexpired and unopened.
“They have a lot of problems with back aches because of working in the fields,” Ward said. “They have a lot of GI problems because of their diets. They don’t eat the healthiest, so we have a a lot of stomach problems and things like that.”
Donors can bring items to the FHSU Nursing Department office Stroup Hall 120B on the FHSU campus.
Below is a listed of the needed supplies.
- Adult vitamins with and without iron
- Children’s vitamins with and without iron
- Infant vitamins
- Prenatal vitamins
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C, D, & E
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 500mg
- Children’s Tylenol
- Ibuprofen 200mg
- Aspirin 81 mg
- Naproxen (Aleve) 220mg & 500mg
- Migraine Relief
- Saline eye drops
- Dextromethorphan (Vicks Dayquil cough)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25mg tabs, 12.5mg liquid (no 50mg)
- Loratadine (Claritin) 10mg
- Liquid Loratadine (Claritin)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec) 5mg, 10mg & liquid
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Nasal Saline
- Nasal decongestant spray
- Robafen (Cough Medication)
- Gas X
- Ranitidine (Zantac)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Hemorrhoid treatments
GYN & UROLOGY
- Vaginal suppositories for yeast infection (clotrimazole/miconazole)
- A & D cream
- Selsun Blue
- Acne meds
- Gentle face wash
- Muscle rub
- Nail fungal treatments
- Wart treatments
- Cold sore cream
- Zinc oxide (Diaper rash creams)
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Clotrimazole-Antifungal cream
- Hydrocortisone creams
- Band-Aids – Especially for children