Most Americans most likely couldn't fathom the true stories of the poor conditions in Haiti.
The Haitians suffer from malnutrition or infectious diseases. Just trying to reach a hospital to be treated is a challenge.
Next fall, Central Lakes College nursing program students and faculty may get hands-on experience in treating patients at a hospital in Pignon, a small town in the Central Plateau of Haiti, and work with Haitian doctors and nurses.
CLC is working on an ongoing, long-term partnership with a hospital in Haiti that was founded in 1983 by Dr. Guy Theodore. The facility has grown to a 65-bed hospital with four outlying clinics that are operated by a Haitian nonprofit organization.
CLC President Larry Lundblad said the college is working out the funding details and the logistics with Theodore to make the partnership a reality. The college's hope is to have the partnership in place by next fall.
Nancy Meyer (left), a Central Lakes College practical nursing instructor; Darci Goeden, a CLC associate degree nursing instructor; and Connie Frisch, a CLC associate degree nursing instructor; visited a nursing school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Goeden and Frisch are the CLC interim nursing directors.
Lundblad said the cost for each trip to Haiti will include CLC instructional expenses, along with lodging and travel expenses for instructors and students. Students will earn college credits and will be expected to pay a portion of their expenses.
Lundblad said the college also wants to provide financial support to the Haitian hospital as part of each visit. Lundblad said the college will not use any state monies to fund this portion of the partnership. Lundblad said CLC will conduct fundraisers and ask for support from private donations, with the goal of raising $5,000.
"Our ultimate goal is to get our students involved in international projects," Lundblad said. We've been interested in global learning for a long time and the partnership with Haiti is one of the college's first main international initiatives."
Rebecca Best, CLC dean of educational services, said, "We want our students to see the global perspective, see the cultural diversity and see firsthand about the infectious disease, the malnutrition, the tropical diseases and many diseases that they wouldn't see here."
Rebecca Best (left), Central Lakes College dean of educational services, discussed the college's recent trip to Haiti with CLC president Larry Lundblad and practical nursing instructor Nancy Meyer. CLC is working on a partnership with a hospital in Pignon, Haiti, where the college's nursing faculty and students would travel to the country and work with its staff.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Lundblad and Best, along with Nancy Meyer, a CLC practical nursing instructor, and Darci Goeden and Connie Frisch, CLC registered nursing instructors, recently spent a week in Haiti to witness how the hospital runs, to study the learning possibilities and to make sure the environment was safe.
Best said the college's involvement with Haiti would not have been possible if not for the years of work by Dr. Paul Severson, of the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and president and founder of Project Haiti, as well as Patty Nelson, Project Haiti coordinator. Best said Severson was instrumental in training Haitian doctors how to perform minimally invasive surgery on patients and designing operating rooms for the Haitian hospital.
Meyer said minimally invasive surgery in Haiti is a wonderful thing because the hospital doesn't have an abundance of pain medication and it takes many families significant time, often by walking or by donkey, to travel to the hospital for treatment.
"With minimally invasive surgery, there is not as much pain and the outcome is better," said Meyer. "The patients heal much quicker with this surgery."
Meyer said hospital conditions in Haiti are much different than in the states. In Haiti, Meyer said it's extremely hot, it's overcrowded and cleanliness can be an issue. Meyer said the nursing shifts in Haiti also are different from the U.S. and the families, not the nursing staff, take care of the patients after surgery.
Best said another difference is that patients, regardless of their medical condition, are housed next to each other.
"They can have a person who is close to dying next to someone who is less sick," said Best.
Best, Meyer and Lundblad said even though the conditions were not the best, the Haitian people in Pignon seem to have hope and the college representatives were happy to see that.
Best said the college will look at co-developing the curriculum for the partnership. Best said the college wants to learn the procedures and standards of care that the Haiti hospital follows, plus help implement improvements where appropriate.
"The goal is not to Americanize what they're doing," Best said. "We feel our students will gain from this life-changing experience. They'll become better students here and will be able to give back to the global community."
Lundblad said Theodore already has asked the college to help raise the standards in the Pignon hospital.
"This is a win-win situation for all involved," said Lundblad.
Once the partnership is finalized, there will be an application process to determine the top nursing students who would be eligible to participate.
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