I’d like to share a little bit of my experience working as a volunteer for Andean Health and Development in 2014. More importantly, I need to say “thank you” to everyone who made my experience possible, and to everyone who contributed in any way to the opening of Hesburgh Hospital in Santo Domingo. In order to get down to Ecuador, I cashed out all my vacation time and sold my car. And I have to say, it was more than worth it.
Andean Health and Development took a gamble on inviting me to help with the opening of their new hospital. More specifically, David Gaus and Laura Dries gambled a lot of their time to be liaisons in getting me down there. Looking back, I can’t believe how much time they spent helping me figure out visa issues, Spanish classes, and other logistics. I am so thankful for their help.
From the day I arrived to Santo Domingo, I started learning about the incredible dedication of the people behind this hospital, and behind this organization. Every week I was more and more amazed–as the shipping containers arrived with impeccably organized, high-quality equipment donations, and as the beautiful hospital construction came to an end and the finishing touches were applied, I couldn’t believe there weren’t more people in charge. The amount of work, creativity, flexibility, and generosity of the people involved in this project–in the US and in Ecuador–is astounding. In the US, we often call ourselves “workaholics.” Working for AHD, I saw a new definition of this concept. People were willing to wear whatever hat it took, stretch themselves into 5 different roles throughout 16 hours of work every day… anything to keep the hospital making strides week after week. Thanks to everyone’s dedication, HH is a fully functioning hospital, offering much-needed services in Santo Domingo, just six months after opening. What an amazing accomplishment!
While in Ecuador, I was told multiple times by taxi drivers and patients themselves that “la atención,” or the care, they receive at HH is “the best in Santo Domingo.” I think this is something we should be extraordinarily proud of. As an organization, AHD is creating a healthcare culture of its own. The employees hired at HH don’t come in with a knowledge of who Father Hesburgh is, where Saludesa or AHD comes from, or what it all means. But right away, they can sense that there is something different about this place. After just six months, HH is influencing the culture of care in Santo Domingo. I think this says a lot about how AHD is functioning as a model for excellent care in Ecuador, and it says a lot about the potential for AHD to improve healthcare in more areas in the future.
It’s clear that AHD is making a positive impact on the training of doctors in Ecuador. As a nurse, I’m proud to say that AHD is influencing the culture of nursing as well. Nurses in Ecuador take responsibility for a wide variety of departmental and hospital management tasks that nurses in the US never really think about. The benefit of this is that these nurses have a diverse array of skills and can manage almost any kind of patient. The drawback of this is that they generally don’t have time to think deeply about the pathology and pharmacology of their patient cases, and they tend to let the doctors manage that knowledge base.
At Saludesa, nurses participate in weekly “docencia” (teaching) classes, where these topics are discussed. Encouraging nurses to participate in continuing education and to understand why they give the care they do is key in developing a culture of excellent patient care. The best part about this is that 100% of the nursing staff I worked with expressed a desire to expand their knowledge base and improve their practice; it’s clear they are excited about the learning opportunities at Saludesa.
It was an honor to participate in the development of the docencia program and the promotion of a culture of continuing nurse education. I am excited that Doctors David Gaus and Diego Herrera have approved the expansion of the US nurse volunteer position, and that I will have the privilege of coordinating plans for future nurse volunteers to travel to Ecuador in an effort to strengthen the culture of continuing nurse education and excellent patient care.
In conclusion: thank you, thank you, muchas gracias, and ¡salud! Here’s to a busy and successful 2015.
– Anne Dixon
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