Dominican Republic trip makes lasting impact on students
June 22, 2011

Practical Nursing student Paulette Warren helping local women with pain medications

A number of Georgian College health and wellness students had the opportunity of a lifetime this past April and May to help provide care and health education to those in dire need in the Dominican Republic. Three separate groups of students (a mix of practical nursing, BScN, massage therapy, paramedic/advanced care paramedic and pre-health sciences), along with nursing faculty and community care providers (pharmacist, nurses and lab technicians) travelled to two rural areas, Consuelo and San Jose De Ocoa.

The trip had a huge impact on the students on an emotional level, as well as professional.

“I signed up believing I would see some interesting things, meet a few people and be a little shocked about how people live in the Dominican Republic,” says Massage Therapy student Katherine Madaleno. “What I didn’t expect was the emotional rollercoaster, the desire to do more, the desire to stay longer and the many ways it has changed me.”

Interprofessional care was given to the residents in rural communities in several ways:

  • Community clinics;
  • Working alongside nurses and doctors at the local hospital;
  • Home visiting
  • Visiting long-term care homes; and
  • Visiting an orphanage.

Nursing students worked side-by-side with paramedic and massage therapy students to give a well-rounded care experience.

“The interprofessional experience that I received showed the insight into how multi-layered the health care system is and how each discipline is linked to the other,” says Advanced Care Paramedic student Tori Redgate. “With the expertise we had on our health care team, we were able to treat a variety of patients, from infancy to the elderly.”

Students provided overall health assessments, wound care, respiratory care, musculoskeletal care, pain and parasite medication and more. They also visited local schools and provided much needed supplies and education to children. Nursing and paramedic students provided basic first-aid education and dental health promotion.

The amount of people that were seen by the students is staggering. In the first two weeks of the San Jose de Ocoa trip, 1,750 people were provided care.

“Each year we develop a very close connection to the people in these communities – from the community residents, families who live on the bateys (sugar cane plantations) and the local health care providers,” says Practical Nursing faculty member Jane Barnes. “They are so grateful to have us there when we visit and they really make us feel like we are a part of their community.”

Local men who spend their days working on bateys were given sets of sunglasses donated from Georgian College Optical. In addition, a group of students and faculty provided cake and gifts to the local nurses in celebration of Nursing Week.

There were many supporters who provided a donation, including school and medical supplies such as the Rotary Club of Barrie and the Grace United Church. The Georgian group travels each year in partnership with Rayjon Share Care, a registered not-for-profit charitable organization located in Sarnia.

Overall, it’s safe to say that this is a trip that the students will never forget.

“I came home a changed person,” says Madaleno. “I see the world in a whole new light. Without a doubt, this is the most enriching thing I have done in my lifetime and I will be making this an annual necessity for me.”