Medical Mission-Day One

October 4th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

It was off and running at 8 a.m. Monday as the doors swung open on the 2011 Midwest Medical Mission's October trip to Samana, Dominican Republic. Eight hours and over 150 patients later, the first day was done. We were exhausted, incredibly hot and sweaty, and pretty pleased with what we accomplished: 13 surgeries, 52 ophthalmology patients and about 100 served in our family practice clinic—not bad for a day's work.

We arrived to lines of potential patients waiting for appointments. Word had been spread locally we would look for surgical patients first, both general surgery and eyes. In less than two hours the first patient was in the OR. Down the hall the Family Practice Clinic had three stations working—two doctors, a family nurse practitioner and two RNs were seeing patients at breakneck speed.

I mentioned last week in my article 5 Things to Know about Medical Mission Trips two very key points I will address now, and how they directly apply to this particular experience.

  1. Anything you think you will need you need to bring with you. This is our supply table. It is filled with instruments, bandages, drains, gowns, medicines, blades and suture, and any number of things we might need. It may look like a mess —  and it gets straightened by someone 20 times a day — but it is amazing how much we can do with so little. Just look at the numbers.

  2. Be prepared to jury rig. Our PACU nurses and team leader let their imaginations lead today, and brilliant ideas were born. This trip is very short of surgical gowns. We like to put patients in them before surgery, and surgeons, nurses and techs wear them in the OR and we like to have them afterwards, during recovery. So, what to do? We stretch. Kym, our fearless team leader heads into the OR the second surgery is finished, takes the clean gowns off the nurse and scrub and hustles them out to post-op. There, Bonnie and Phyllis, Recovery RNs, set to them with a pair of scissors. The sleeves get cut off, tied at the ends and turned into personal belongings bags and the now sleeveless gowns are more comfortable in the heat and humidity for the awakening patients to wear. No waste, no want. As I said last week, thinking outside the box is mandatory.

Finally, I get to the best part of why we do this mission and what it means to nurses and other staff here who make this journey. We help others and by extension, ourselves. This picture is what it's all about. This gentleman had a lipoma in his eye, causing him much irritation and pain. We removed it, but that's not the best part. It was doing what you see here, the part of nursing that is irreplaceable—being there, holding a hand, offering comfort and being part of the general improvement of someone's health and well being.

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