I am on the bus heading back to Boston after visiting my family in Brewer, Maine over the holidays and it was, as most travel is, an interesting experience. The characters that fill the bus are amusing and I enjoy people watching. I spend a lot of time traveling as the Chief Nursing Officer at Partners In Health. Travel can be exhausting -- long plane rides, unexpected delays, and many hours in cars traveling on dirt and half-paved roads. In mid-December, when Boston and many parts of the U.S. were in a deep freeze and digging out from snow, I was in Haiti where it was sunny and hot, working with the Zanmi Lasante/PIH Haiti's nursing team.
We traveled for hours in between our sites throughout the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions and one stop was in Belladère, a community near the Dominican Republic border. The hospital there is old and in disrepair. There are many patients and there is not enough staff, supplies, medications or reliable running water. As we walked past overcrowded wards and through throngs of people to meet the hospital's Chief Nurse, I was anticipating meeting a stressed out and de-motivated nurse leader. Who I met instead was a dynamic, larger than life personality who filled the small room with her warmth, humor and energy. Miss Chachoute has been at this small public hospital for over 20 years. She spoke passionately about the needs of her patients and literally danced in her seat when we talked about putting a nurse mentor/educator full-time at the hospital.
During our visit, Miss Chachoute talked about her nursing staff -- many had also been there for a decade or more. Magically, as we spoke, a few of the nurses she had been praising showed up in her office. Miss Alix stood there proudly as her praises were sung by her manager. It was only later in the car ride back to Port-Au-Prince did others tell me that the nurses had been called by Miss Chachoute while we were talking. I had been so enthralled with her enthusiasm and our conversation that I did not even notice she had picked up her cell phone and made a few quick calls. When I asked the secret of her success of such dedicated nurses working with her, she talked about the need to care for and recognize hard work. She mentioned providing juice and a snack for the night shift nurses as she worries they don't have enough money to bring food for their long shift. It is only when I specifically asked, did she tell us that she uses her own money to provide the juice and snacks for her staff.
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