DX Ambassador Utilizes Her Skills to Volunteer in Haiti

DX Ambassador Utilizes Her Skills to Volunteer in Haiti

The DX Team recently caught up with one of their DX Ambassadors, Angela, RN an ER nurse who works at one of the Phoenix, Arizona’s busiest ER’s in the East Valley.

Working three-12 hour shift work days in a week, she see’s patient’s at the busiest peak times of the department: The dreaded 11a to 11pm shift.  We learned more about her work environment and also discovered a great adventure that would inspire the hardest working nurse to keep on giving…

DX Team: What is your usual patient load like in your department and what type of support do you have to tackle the day? 

Angela, RN: Our usual patient ratio is 3:1 or 4:1 if you have a hall bed added or if it is a sub-acute area meaning the patients are less acute. We work with NPs and PAs, primarily in the area we call "intake" the urgent care area as well as the sub-acute area. Every shift we have 2 nurse ‘zoomers' (or floats) who do not take a patient assignment but respond to all traumas, stroke alerts, STEMIs, most ambulances, and overall just help the department flow better. My hospital is in the process of becoming a Level I Trauma Center within the next few months and I am super excited.  

DX Team:  Where/when did you graduate from nursing school and why did you want to become a nurse? 

Angela, RN: I graduate from Northern Illinois University, 2013. I was always interested in healthcare as a young child. I grew up watching Rescue911 & ER as a child on television. As a freshmen in college, I met with my guidance counselor and discussed nursing would be the right fit for me. Two of my aunts were nurses who I always admired. I had a 3-month nursing externship at Indiana University: Emergency Medicine & Trauma Center my junior year of nursing school & I knew at that moment that ER was my future. 

DX Team: We learned that you and a group of your ER colleagues decided to participate in a medical mission?! That is a HUGE commitment and to be honest a wonderful gift to spend your time off, utilizing your skills in a third world country situation.  Tell us about the organization that sent you on your medical mission and how you learned about this. 

Angela, RN: A fellow ER nurse who has been on several mission trips told me about an organization called CHAMPs. CHAMPs is an acronym: Connecting Hope and Medicine to People in Haiti. The missions are to help create a sustainable healthcare system for the Haitian people. Everybody on the trip had some personal connection to a current CHAMPs participant or a prior volunteer and that is how I got the information to join. 

DX Team: Is there any specific training or certification required to volunteer on these missions? 

Angela, RN:  CHAMPs doesn't have any specific training required by the nursing staff per se, but we committed ourselves to be flexible and willing to work hard. The days in clinic involved a 1-3 hour commute each way plus 7 hours in clinic. No professional credentials or background checks were necessary.

DX Team: Please describe your overall trip. 

Angela, RN: We flew into Port-Au-Prince, Haiti where we stayed for the week. However, we did venture to several other communities near and far to provide care. It was very overwhelming being in a foreign airport traveling with medical supplies. We had anything from sutures to medications to ace wraps to lollipops in our luggage. Not speaking French Creole was a bit intimidating at first too. After my 3 fellow Arizona volunteers and I gathered our 10 bags (each had 1 carry on plus a few had 2 checked bags for the supplies) we decided to conquer customs & hopefully find our designed CHAMPs transportation. We were approached by so many locals trying to take our luggage out to the vehicles and of course hoping for a tip. It was maybe 5-7 approaching us at one time. We eventually got through the herd of people and felt a sigh of relief when seeing somebody, who later became known to us as Pepe, holding a sign saying CHAMPs. 

The first day was a travel day.  Volunteers arrived from America at varying times. The second day was a packing and preparation day. We had several bulk medications that needed to be bagged into 30 day supplies (multi-vitamins, tylenol, naproxen, pediatric vitamins, etc). 

The third day was our first day in clinic. That was the longest car-ride of the trip, we took a "tap tap" which is a form of transportation in Haiti. It is a very vibrant rainbow truck that seats maybe 20 people inside on benches. We went into the mountains that day but had to cross through several wet areas that would have been unsuitable in a car. 

The next 4 days we performed clinics in schools and churches since those are some of the only infrastructures within the communities. We saw 1,526 in 5 days, the final day seeing 517 patients. 

The DX Team: What was your biggest take aways from your trip?  Was there any one family, patient, situation that stood out?

Angela, RN: There’s not one moment to describe the experience. My favorite take away was being immersed in their culture. Most Americans take fancy vacations and stay at resorts and don't really see what any given country is all about. We stood in their homes (mostly tin huts with dirt floors), we ate their cuisine, we served them in their communities, we had interpreters interpreting their language for us. 

 There were moments where we realized that some necessary medical specialties were unobtainable for them. But in an environment like this, you have to live and treat in the moment. It is very different than American medicine. We have endless resources here in the states that are easy to take for granted. Treating patients purely based on your assessment is an interesting process to grasp. There isn't any lab work or imaging or studies to be done. Giving out as many medications as possible and providing patient education were some of the highlights of clinic. 

DX Team: What an amazing journey!  Thank you for sharing. Peering into what you experienced may empower people to learn more about third-world country medicine.  Would you volunteer your time again to CHAMPS? 

Angela, RN:  Absolutely! In a heart-beat!

To find out more information on CHAMPS please go to: http://www.champsinhaiti.org