In response to the earthquake that ravaged Haiti’s capital on January 12, 2010, Partners In Health helped to send hundreds of volunteer nurses, doctors, and other medical and logistics professionals from around the United States and Europe to help support our roughly 5,000 staff on the ground. The following essay is from one of those volunteers, and the last of a five part series.Read the previous post in this series.
Ed Arndt working with a Haitian surgical team at the hospital in St. Marc.
After an experience like the one our group had in Haiti, I can reflect on how we as nurses can practice medicine, and support our patients. We had to confront topics ranging from public health and infrastructure to socioeconomic disparities and, of course, language and cultural divides.
One message was clear throughout our experiences: basic clinical skills are universal. Haitian staff and American volunteers were able to work with each other. We were all there to provide direct care and emotional support to our patients. It was universally accepted that we were there to provide quality care, despite a lack of resources
Our goal was not to "Americanize" our surroundings, but to augment the system in place during the emergency response. Our team consisted of some of the most caring and intelligent nurses and doctors with whom I have had the privilege to work.
One of our more profound nursing moments at Hospital St. Nicolas was meeting with nursing leadership in St. Marc. Zanmi Lasante (ZL) staff and PIH volunteers sat together discussing nursing as it pertains to Haitian needs and wishes for their community. We thanked ZL staff for having us there, for accommodating us, and making us feel welcome in their institution.
We also asked local nursing leadership to speak with the hospital's bedside nurses about the kinds of things they felt they needed from us, especially since we were only there for a short period. We wanted to be sure that the focus was on what the nurses of Hospital St. Nicolas wanted—we just wanted to help get them where they needed to be.
My group of volunteers hopes to return to Haiti and work with Haitian nurses to establish dedicated clinical skill training and cultural exchange as pertaining to public health, and possibly some kind of recognition of this training through certification.
It was a profound moment in my nursing career to be a member of this team. The PIH staff saw to it that we were safe, well cared for, and able to do the work we had set out to do. The fact that PIH/ZL facilities outside Port-au-Prince were established long before the earthquake was a tremendous asset when it came time to respond to this crisis. The people of Haiti will need our help for a long time, and we are compelled to return and continue the work that is both needed and important to establish an independent supportive infrastructure for nurses, for Haiti’s hospitals, and Haitian communities throughout the country.
- Ed Arndt, NP
Brigham and Women's Hospital