Helping the Community Through Health
Franny is an international volunteer nurse from Portland, Oregon, who has recently decided to extend her time with NPH Honduras' clinical team for another half-year.
June 19, 2018 - Honduras
At 7 a.m. every morning, I arrive at the external clinic – a clinic providing low-cost medical services to members of our surrounding communities – to see a line of more than 20 people waiting to receive care at our clinic. Some patients bring three family members with them, others have traveled since the middle of the night to get here, a few patients may be telling jokes to entertain everyone, while others who have been coming to NPH for more than six years help organize the crowd. They enter one by one, and as I take their vital signs, I find out about their health history and where they come from. After their consult with our doctor, I then help perform the treatments they need.
The external clinic provides care for any and every health issue that may fall upon NPH’s neighbors. Our daily patient population can include children, grandparents, pregnant women, the chronically ill, or emergent situations that always keep our team on our toes.
One of my favorite parts about the external clinic are our special days. Every two months we hold diabetes club and hypertension club. Each club has more than sixty patients. There is always a special energy in the air on these mornings. While we start before the sun even comes up, the group is ready and chatting like old friends before we can even begin our first consult. I give a charla (educational health talk) regarding healthy diets, foot care, exercise, medication usage, or disease management. After the charla, we serve a balanced breakfast and all the patients go through their normal procedures – consults with the doctor and follow-up treatments with the nurses, such as injections, IVs, or ulcer care. Every month we also set aside a day to focus specifically on women’s health. Women can come to get affordable pap smears and other information regarding women’s health.
Although each day clinic is different from the one before, there is always a community found in our regular patients. One woman, Cecilia,* comes each diabetes day for her own check-up, but also comes regularly with her pregnant daughter for her appointments, and brings other people from her community to the clinic when they are ill too. Recently, we realized that she lives near the community, where I went for my 'homestay' – a weekend that each international volunteer spends with a family in a nearby community to learn more about Honduras outside of the walls of NPH. We shared a coffee as we spoke about her neighbors that I had met and her growing number of grandchildren. Another boy and his mother came every three weeks for a procedure for most of my first 10 months of work. When he finally finished his treatments, we celebrated together in relief. There is a group of older men who come every two weeks for procedures. The other nurse who I work with and I are able to hear them coming from even inside our clinic by the sounds of their walking sticks, or we can spot them from a distance by the shape of their sombreros. Each one comes with a bag of fruit or a new story to last us until their next visit. I enjoy the outreach work of the clinic because each day I am able to see another glimpse into the life of the nearby communities.
Together, the patients, their families, and the NPH health-care team quickly became a community to me. The team at the clinic is a group of incredibly strong women made up of a doctor, Marta, who grew up and was educated at NPH herself; a pharmacy assistant, Norma and a laboratory director, Doctora Sandra, both who carry years of NPH experience; and another international volunteer nurse, Alaina. We support each other through the intense days – When a man is carried in from the back of a truck with a broken back; when a whole family is rushed to our clinic following a motorcycle crash, or when we must deliver difficult news to a patient. We have worked together to provide end-of-life care to a woman in a neighboring community and to accompany her family through the process. We collaborated to initiate a triage system and to coordinate care using resources on and off NPH Honduras to provide the best quality care for the patients.
Looking back at my past year with NPH and the external clinic, I am glad to have been a part of the NPH Honduras family, but also see first hand how that community extends outside of our home. Now that I’m extending my time working as an international volunteer nurse, I am grateful to be able to see the continued growth in our external clinic and communities, and continue to be part of our health care team.
*Name changed for patient privacy