Impoverished workers and their families in five small sugarcane-harvesting villages of the Dominican Republic known as bateyes recently received much-needed medical care from a team of nursing faculty and students from the University of North Georgia.
Working with Rivers of the World, a Dawsonville-based international ministry group, the team provided medical service to more than 500 people throughout the region surrounding La Romana, the country's third-largest city.
"There were many different levels of students on this trip, and having a team where everyone was focusing on different things made for a great, effective experience," said Dr. Elaine Taylor, associate head of UNG's Department of Nursing. "The family nurse practitioner students focused on direct patient care, the registered nurse Bachelor of Science in nursing students focused on their leadership projects by heading clinic and supply organization, and the students using this trip as an elective course served as clinic workers."
The team helped to serve 537 patients with various needs during the trip by setting up clinics in the five bateyes. These clinics included a deworming station, a check-in/triage station, an eyeglass station, four to five medical treatment stations, a dental station, a family planning station, and a pharmacy.
"We saw many children with respiratory infections, adults with high blood pressure, and multiple types of rashes," Taylor said. "The students enjoyed helping everyone, and some of them didn't want to leave at the end of our week. There are a few who are already talking about returning next year as they continue their educations."
Bateyes in the Dominican Republic are typically inhabited by migrants from Haiti who have left their home country seeking work harvesting sugarcane. As a result, the Dominican government provides fewer public services to these villages, and the bateyes are not recognized as being within the governance system.
"I learned so much on this trip; I realized that I take so much for granted in my life," said BreeLee Garrett, who earned an associate degree in nursing this May. "These people lack so much yet they are so vibrant and happy. It was hard to see how emaciated they were, and I was saddened to see the conditions they live in. It really strengthened my desire to be a nurse missionary."
Garrett added that the trip provided an excellent opportunity for her to put into practice many of the skills she learned in the nursing program. She also said that being immersed in another culture while practicing was an invaluable experience.
"After working as a nurse for 17 years, I decided to step outside my comfort zone to see if I could re-evaluate and rejuvenate my passion for nursing," said Charlotte Lindsey, who is in the family nurse practitioner program. "I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who would truly appreciate it, and I believe we did that. It was a very enlightening experience."