By Alexandra Nitsos, '16 BSN
I spent four months in Restauración, Dominican Republic as an ambassador for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC). During this time, I stayed with a wonderful host family. They were eager to include me in their way of life through showing and teaching me their everyday practices. I also volunteered at a local hospital, which allowed me to gain clinical and Spanish language experience, understand the health disparities between the Haitians and the Dominicans, learn more about their healthcare system, and assess and treat conditions common to the area, such as malnutrition, scabies, dengue, and diabetes.
With other FIMRC staff, I worked to develop, prepare, and introduce health classes, programs, and mobile clinics. The project site there has done a great job of working towards improvements in women's health, nutrition, illness prevention and management, and adolescent involvement in the community from a public health perspective. Additionally, much of my time was spent creating and implementing an early childhood development home visitation program focusing on the first five years of life. Through these experiences, I learned more than I had anticipated.
You can find differences with whomever you interact, but there are also fundamental similarities, such as love, play, and family, that help us to connect with and understand each other. Kids are still kids, always looking to satisfy their curiosity and wonder for the world. Since parents generally want the best for their children and their families, they were interested in learning more about how they can help their children grow and develop in a healthier way.
Education is imperative for health promotion, but you also must consider the culture, beliefs, and lifestyle of the patient. Working with each patient as an individual helps to form the most effective treatment plan. Many times, there are things we can learn from our patients as well. Having an open and collaborative mind was the best approach, and listening usually proved more valuable than talking. I also found things often don’t go as expected. Thorough planning and a clear vision of your goals are needed, but flexibility is equally important.
The necessity of teamwork and social support was reiterated to me in this tight knit community. We were a small team at the FIMRC site, relying on community involvement and cooperation to be successful. In each of the homes that I entered, whether for work or pleasure, the families generously welcomed me into their life, which left a lasting impact on me. I hope that I taught something meaningful and brightened a few days, as so many people did for me. I will work to remember these lessons and replicate the generosity and friendliness that I found so abundantly in the welcoming community of Restauración.
Alexandra Nitsos is a 2016 graduate of the BSN program at the USC College of Nursing. She is a registered nurse on the Clinical Resource Team at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas. She is currently part of their New Graduate Nurse Residency Program. Read more about Alexandra here.