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Becoming a Nurse: Suitability Test (page 2)

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Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Nursing Notes

In Appreciation for What We Have, by Jacquelynn Pasamba

At the time I was a junior and abroad in the Dominican Republic, I was working as a student nurse along with my fellow classmates, a group of overworked, overcaffeinated, overstressed, and sleep deprived library rat inhabitants. We were a team of six under the supervision and guidance of one very patient professor. That particular day we began the morning in the Labor and Delivery unit at the medical center in San Pedro de Macoraris.

I will never forget the incessant piercing screaming, but even more, the smell of stagnant air—a remarkable mixture of emesis, blood, sweat, and everything in between. Picture a ward with different subsections and rooms separated by walls and doors accordingly, but each filled with as many beds as possible. It is as if the architect engineered the space planning to keep a free flow of movement yet a distinction of rooms in mind. However, the inhabitants had the complete opposite intentions, displayed by their utter disregard for patient privacy with the lack of curtains between beds and lack of patient gowns resulting in an abundance of unnecessary nudity. A lot of the major differences between American and Dominican hospitals and care are rooted in the same necessary evil: funding and lack thereof. The lack of medications, equipment, and resources as mundane as electricity and water—which many Americans take for granted—made us fully comprehend the pure novelty and genius of hand sanitizer dispensers scattered among numerous if not all hospitals in the United States. In addition, we realized the importance of resources such as bedsheets or food trays and quickly learned to appreciate them.

The delivery room was also dimly lit, crowded, smelly, and cold—cold, from the actual appearance of objects to people. The doctors and nurses wanted to get in and and out; everything was a procedure, routine. Patients were categorized versus seen or treated as individuals, people. For instance, none of the patients had identification bands. Only one doctor asked the patient how she was doing, interestingly only at the end of the delivery.

We witnessed two women giving birth adjacent to each other with literally no barrier between the two mothers, not even a curtain. One woman gave life, the other saw what could have been. The doctors examined both babies next to each other. It was a memorable and defining experience. Life and death so close in proximity, literally side by side, within arm's reach. One infant gained color and heat as time progressed, while the other turned darker and colder. The face of the mother when she realized her loss haunts me to this day. She wasn't informed until the end of both deliveries. She was alone in the room with the delivering nurse, still lying in the lithotomy position. Her sheer terror, grief, yet loneliness and emptiness when one stared into her bulging deep brown eyes painted on her blank face; her gasping for air and immediate demand to see her baby, her little girl.

As distressing and heartbreaking as this memory is to me, I've learned to take the positives from each experience. The most remarkable and admirable aspect of the Dominicans I encountered was their ability to find happiness in the most distressing situations. Regardless of their circumstance, whether it be financial, physical, mental, or all of the above, everyone was able to crack a joke, laugh, and enjoy life. When I confessed this thought to my professor she responded, "That's because they don't know anything else." In hindsight I like to think of it as, "It's because of everything they do know."

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