By Kate LaFarge
The air is different. I am different. My observations are way more detailed than before. Maybe it isn’t out of my reach to make a difference, at least to start small and be able to grow. I’m looking for a place to start. My surroundings have changed in ways these words can’t begin to explain. How far can medical knowledge go in circumstances where the access to the usual resources as a student nurse are unavailable? Has everything I studied for the last two years as a nursing student mattered?
The truth is, I learned more in two weeks than the last two years in school. Now, I do not discredit my education, but the lessons I learned about caring for those in need-the true nature of nursing-have allowed me to grow in ways I can’t being to explain on paper. Day two in Salvador, Brazil I worked in a 107 bed wound care unit. Patient rooms consisted of approximately 6 beds per room, a much different approach to the United States 1 bed per room approach that has become so familiar to me. Open windows to the outside were the only way to get any air movement in their rooms. The sticky humid air stuck to my skin in anticipation for the first wound that I was going to clean and redress. My hands shaky from the unknown, I started to slowly unwrap the gauze from his day old dressing, not knowing what to expect. The only warning sign was the smell that seeped through my mask. I looked into his eyes, and he looked at me with a warm smile. To my surprise, every patient I came in contact with, no matter how old, how sick, how sad, or how alone, never gave up the chance to thank me for the care I gave them. It was enough to bring tears to my eyes every day. Most times, in the quiet of the night, once my day was over, I lay in bed wishing there was more I could do for these patients.
And, maybe, this was the point. To learn that sometimes medical care can only go so far, and caring for someone goes deeper than the medicine we give them, the procedures we put them through, the needles we stick them with, and the silence we leave them in. Nurses in Salvador do not have access to equipment that we do here, however, they know how to make things work for their patients and their teamwork and collaboration is like nothing I had ever seen before. It doesn’t come down to the equipment we use. The focus of care is the person behind the diagnosis and I would like to challenge every healthcare provider to always look into the eyes of their patients and remember why we chose to be in this field.
Salvador, Brazil, you have forever changed me. I promise to give back to nursing what you gave to me.
Kate LaFarge is a nursing student at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Alexandria Virginia. She was accepted with 10 other Chamberlain students nationwide, to become a part of the international studies program through her school. She currently resides and works in Alexandria Virginia.