I must admit that while I have vivid details of arriving and leaving Haiti, my time spent there blurs together much more. Each day seems to have bled into one another and instead of separate 24-hour periods it has become one long experience in my mind.
Nursing in Haiti was drastically different from what I was used to. Yes, basic principles still applied, but working with limited resources and huge communication barriers was challenging. I felt that I was responding to specific situations (pain, itchiness, hunger, etc.) as opposed to using critical thinking skills to anticipate a patient’s needs or using my assessment skills for a purpose.
We were fortunate to have a lot of resources, but “a lot” is relative. Our IV fluids were limited and saline flushes were nonexistent.
We had antibiotics but no directions for reconstituting them (many antibiotics are powder and need a certain amount of fluid to be added to them before they can be given intravenously).
We did a lot of improvising, reusing and repurposing. We recycled needles (only if they never came into contact with patients) and threw syringes in the trash. We used clean technique but being sterile was next to impossible. I tried to calculate drip rates, but with each move of a patients arm it would change so before long I began eyeballing it. Being exact became less of a priority, and trying to make due while still being safe became our focus.
The night shift crew for the peds floor was made up of two Miami nurses (Vivienne and Juliette) and two Haitian nurses (Toussant – below left and Germaine – right) and me.
I have to say that I am so thankful to have been able to work with these four women. They were hard working, competent, kind, joyful and just plain wonderful. I was the “charge nurse” every night after day one (which didn’t mean much) and though everyone was very competent and very strong individually, I was occasionally sought out for help (I had the most peds acute care experience) and I was even asked me to help them with IVs – ha!
Working on the floor was difficult. It was chaotic.
People were everywhere. Communication was so difficult (though the translators were awesome) and I really struggled at times. I had to remind myself frequently of 1 Peter “Gird up your minds and rest your hope fully upon Jesus” and “that by your good works may you glorify God.” I often struggled and eventually needed a break.