Today was our hospital visit day. All students and some volunteers loaded up in a bus and traveled one hour to the Ricardo Limardo public hospital in Puerto Plata. We were greeted by the Director of Nurses who happens to be Ramon’s mother (he is one of our interpreters). It was an eye-opening experience to find ourselves in a world so foreign to ours. Here in the DR this hospital has been undergoing “reconstruction” that is very behind schedule. To us, it was a world of noise, many many people all over the place, narrow hallways, ten patients to a room, some patients lying on bare mattresses without sheets, walls in need of painting, a noticeable absence of hand sanitizer, hard back paper charts med carts for a quarter of a century ago, and last, but not least a separate unit just for those with Dengue fever.
Our American view of orderly processes and systems, air conditioning, patient privacy, private rooms, electronic health records, omni-cells and Pyxis systems were nowhere to be found. Yet the nurses and interns we met were knowledgeable and caring, warm and genuine. Florence Nightingale would have been impressed with the fresh air environment and that so many patients could be cared for under these circumstances.
We left there truly humbled and will be reflecting on social injustices throughout the world including those within our own country, for a long time. Perhaps some of us will be called to action but all of us will be incorporating this experience into our persona as American nurses and doctors.