Images from the Dominican Republic

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October's Fall Break meant relaxation for some but not a group of eight junior nursing students who were providing healthcare to Haitian migrant sugar cane workers and their families in La Romana, Dominican Republic. The students traveled to care for those in the poorest areas (bateyes) of the Caribbean country along with two faculty: Tamara Kear, PhD, RN, assistant professor and Kimberly Connolly, MPH, RN, clinical assistant professor and director of the College's Center for Global and Public Health. The trip was part of their clinical practicum.

This was Dr. Kear’s third trip to La Romana, but the inaugural experience for Villanova’s College of Nursing. Support for this experience was provided to many students through the Connelly-Delouvrier International Scholars program.

La Romana is an industrial town on the southern coast of this developing nation and is surrounded by mountains and sugar cane plantations. Migrant workers and their families come from Haiti to harvest the sugar cane and seek a better way of life.  Despite this quest for a better life and education for their children, these individuals have little to no access to healthcare.

While in the Dominican Republic, the healthcare provided to the Haitian people was coordinated through the Good Samaritan Hospital. Good Samaritan is local hospital that provides care to the underserved in the La Romana area and over 200 Haitian batey communities.

The junior nursing students were the nursing component of a healthcare team that included two physicians, a dentist, and six interpreters. Three days were spent delivering healthcare in the rural batey communities to 283 patients.  This work included performing assessments; distributing medications; providing teaching on heat related illnesses, dental care, and hypertension; fitting people of all ages for reading glasses and sunglasses; and giving flip-flops to those who did not have shoes to wear.

"Through the guidance of Dr. Kear and Professor Connolly, our group developed a better understanding of poverty and international nursing while greatly improving our nursing skills. I now have an even greater passion for nursing, a newfound interest in pursuing international nursing, and an increased sense of dedication to serving those that are less fortunate. It was such a grounding week, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and to learn so much from such dedicated faculty members," says student Sarah Nicol from Albany, NY.

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The students and faculty installed six water filtration systems and a team of nursing students spent one afternoon inspecting water filtration systems that were previously installed. The water filtration systems are installed in the batey homes and schools and provide safe drinking water through a simple process of running the water over a layer of sand, gravel, and large stones (similar to water in a stream running over the bed of a river, using the properties of nature to filter the water). The nursing students also provided water filtration teaching to the families receiving the new filters. The systems improve the health of families and decrease incidence of illness such as intestinal parasites in children.

The group enjoyed their involvement in the community. On the first full day in the Dominican Republic, the faculty and students attended a batey church service. The students had to think quickly when they were asked to sing a song for the parishioners of this large batey. Despite the language barrier, the audience smiled and swayed to the music. Later that same day the students briefly attended another church service to sing and were accompanied this time by a back-up band.

The group also spent time touring Good Samaritan Hospital and comparing medical care in a developing nation to the care provided in industrialized countries. After the hospital tour, the students spent the day dancing and playing with children at an orphanage in La Romana.

Scholarly work was incorporated into the clinical experience as two students assisted Dr. Kear with the collection of data for a study on the barriers to hypertension management in the bateyes. Both will continue to work with Dr. Kear during the analysis phase of this study.

Upon the return back to campus, several students have expressed an interest in global health nursing careers and have a desire to return to the Dominican Republic and become involved in other international learning opportunities offered by the College of Nursing.

 

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