Medical Mission Trip Aids Dominicans
A courtesy faculty member and two graduate nursing students from the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing were part of an international medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic in July.
The group volunteered as part of Medical Ministry International, an organization that provides health care in developing countries.
During the trip, medical personnel visited nine different sites at various schools and churches to meet local patients and provided primary care and health education.
Nurse practitioner Raye Minardi, who has participated on medical mission trips for nearly 20 years, spent two weeks in the Dominican Republic. Bull Nurse graduate students Akia Davis and Jessica Graham each spent a week on the trip, assisting with gynecology care and providing Pap smears.
Minardi, who has been bringing nursing students down to the Caribbean country for two decades, said the medical mission trip and its clinical training is always eye-opening.
“It’s a really good, rewarding experience,” Minardi said. “The students see how little it takes to make such an impact in their patients’ lives. It’s nothing like the real world, and it is fun.”
Minardi said the group travels to a different village each day where patients, mostly impoverished farmers and their families, line up in a school or a church. Most have been waiting a year to see a health care provider, and often mothers will come with three to four kids in tow.
Conditions are basic. If there is electricity, it is intermittent. There is no privacy, as everyone waits and is assessed in one room. Those who find an available seat are sitting in small, child-sized chairs. Once health care providers write a prescription, health educators teach patients how to use the medication.
Davis, a graduate student in the family nurse practitioner program, said she signed up for the mission trip, because it was a good opportunity to see how health care is practiced outside the U.S. and to gain clinical hours at the same time.
Davis said she saw about 20 patients a day, mostly doing Pap smears, screenings, and some health education.
One unexpected positive outcome: she learned she had to strengthen her interviewing skills to draw personal information out of patients, instead of relying on results from the limited diagnostic tests.
“Overall, it was a great experience, but it was a big culture shock,” Davis said. “It was definitely a humbling experience. I had an amazing time even in the rough conditions.”
Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing