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lundi 9 mai 2011

Saskatchewan Registered Nurses: Helping and healing in Haiti

By Debra Clarke, Leader Post May 9, 2011 4:09 AM "Every second was a new picture."
Patricia Zip still remembers the sights, sounds and smells of Port au Prince, Haiti, four months after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck on January 12th, 2010.
In the country to teach rehab staff and patients while facilitating safe, competent inpatient and community care, Zip remembers rubble being left where it had fallen, with paths cleared only to make room for people and vehicles involved in the recovery efforts.
"Extreme poverty and filth was everywhere. It was hot. Hospitals had no windows or doors; goats, chickens and children ran in and out. Women and men patients were separated by gender: one room for each group. TB, aids, maternity, spinal cord injuries were all in the same room. No regard for contagious diseases and little privacy. "
The continued political unrest in the country meant Zip and her medical colleagues always traveled with a Haitian guide while armed guards protected the hospital compounds or homes where they were staying. The threat of disease was also an ever-present danger.
"We took daily anti-cholera medications and were treated for malaria and other diseases. We slept under malaria nets. Some of the medical staff became ill. Our daily food was cooked by local Haitian ladies and consisted of a mixture of rice and beans, sometimes varied with a few small portions of goat or chicken added because we were 'honoured guests'."
Haiti would turn out to be a life-changing experience for Zip - one that would not only call upon all her training as a registered nurse but also one that would impact her as a person. "As a nurse, my training taught me to think critically but it was overwhelming walking into an area of devastation and destruction. It was the destruction of the human spirit which was the hardest to deal with."
Despite all they have endured, though, Zip says the Haitian people have great hope.
"We're taught to utilize many important competencies such as nursing care provider, counseling, teaching, and advocating. Nursing, as an evidence-based profession involves life-long learning. With experience comes adaptability without compromising standards of safe care. Haiti was certainly a test of commitment and adaptability."
A faculty member with the Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan (NEPS), Zip has gained significant education and training, including Canadian Rehabilitation Certification Nurse. She teaches in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of Saskatchewan and facilitates clinical students in Rehabilitation Medicine at City Hospital in Saskatoon.
After hearing about the destruction and the urgent need for medical help, Zip knew she had to go. A colleague put her in touch with the head of Team Canada Healing Hands, a group "committed to facilitate development of rehabilitation professionals to staff clinics and rehab facilities with a goal of training Haitian health care and community workers."
Another goal, says Zip, was "to construct and operate outpatient rehab services."
Zip was chosen to be part of the team because of her considerable training and expertise, particularly with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). "The majority of patients were paraplegics," she says. "These patients were situated in Fond du Blanc and Cap Haitian, on opposite sides of the island. I spent a week at each. I worked in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of rehab specialists including a physical therapist and physiatrist from New Brunswick."
Zip also spent time teaching individual patients and staff, since the earthquake had destroyed the nursing school in Haiti. While most of the students were out of the school doing practicums on the day of the quake, sadly "the entire faculty died when the building collapsed."
She discovered Haiti's version of heath care is much different than Canada's. "Care was managed by family and nurses at the level of an aide or licensed practical nurse. Hospitals are scarce and sparse. Patients provide their own bedding, food, water and even medications in many situations. A lot of Haitians have strong Christian faith but turn to voodoo healers when sick and progress is not as hoped for."
With much of the population living in poverty, the focus for many became survival following the earthquake. Zip notes that most Haitians live on $2 a day or less, meaning there was little money to buy medication or supplies at treatment centre, which charged fees in order to pay for staff and upkeep - a source of both anger and despair for the Canadian medical teams.
"I recall a baby denied inhalers for asthma because her family could not afford them," says Zip. "The volunteer nurses paid for some medication but the baby soon died because the family could not maintain supply of the meds. This would never happen in Canada. We cried."
The lack of supplies, medical aid and overwhelming destruction and devastation impacted Zip in many ways. She returned to Canada "with only the clothes I wore. I left everything I possibly could for them. I wish I could have given more."
She is also planning a return trip to the still-ravaged country, having been invited back by a prominent Haitian physiatrist and by Healing Hands Canada.
"Until the day that they have leaders who actually care for the people, volunteers are needed. I am not special. I simply gave of myself and did whatever I possibly could."
Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Saskatchewan+Registered+Nurses+Helping+healing+Haiti/4749877/story.html#ixzz1Lqc1HXiO
http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Saskatchewan+Registered+Nurses+Helping+healing+Haiti/4749877/story.html

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