UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Surgical Mission to Dominican Republic

042110Headline_SurgeryThe operating room looks like something from a rural U.S. hospital a half-century ago.

Some operating tables have a makeshift airplane propeller under the unconscious patient’s arms, each arm stretching out to the propeller’s tip. Improvised but efficient.

With no air conditioning, the surgeons and nurses try not to drip sweat on the patients, during their 10-12 hour surgery shifts.

Unlike in today’s U.S. hospitals, the cloth wrappings will be reused – they are sterile, but darkened with age.

Organs or tissue removed will be given to the patients or family members – they bring their own containers from home – and they themselves will take it for a pathology report that will take 3-4 months for results.

For some faculty members and students from the School of Nursing, spring break was a rewarding, exhausting and enlightening experience. Each was part of a surgical mission trip to a hospital in the Dominican Republic.

Last week’s Food for Thought Lunch, sponsored by the honors college, was a time for sharing. Dr. Patricia Crane and senior Lauren Moore talked. The topic was “hope.” The group’s presence and knowledge of good practices – as well as the supplies they brought and left behind at the hospital – brought hope and healing to many local citizens and Haitian earthquake survivors they cared for.

You see conditions rarely seem in the States when you assist with surgery there, Crane says. Goiters from lack of iodine, distinctive hernias. But mainly they helped with what Americans would consider routine surgeries.

In the Dominican Republic, surgery of any type is considered a dire thing, never routine. The volunteers helped provide hope.

In the last three years, a growing number from the School of Nursing have taken surgical mission trips to the Dominican Republic.

During last month’s break, two faculty members, Dr. Patricia Crane and Dr. Linda McNeal, traveled with nine students from the School of Nursing: three nurse anesthesist students, one nurse practitioner student, one RN to BSN student and four undergraduate students. The effort was part of a Methodist missionary effort. Those from UNCG focused on medical care. “We’re there to meet their physical needs,” Crane said.

“You’d have to do that before you meet their spiritual needs,” Moore adds.

“We carried lots of stuff,” Crane says. From the majority of drugs they would administer, to supplies such as gloves, sterile dressings, surgical instruments, sutures – even to ziplock bags.

Ziplock bags are very handy in the hospitals. Another coveted item: baseball caps, for the kids. Baseball is the big sport.

Almost everything they packed they left there.

“You do cry, you get tired. It’s hard to leave. Ten, twelve hours a day, every day,” Crane explains about how the experience affects the volunteers. “We’re doing what we can do.”

The nursing students are called on to do a lot. “They’re cutting, tying [during surgery],” Moore says. Anesthesia students do a lot of epidurals.

The anesthesia students do not get course credit, though the other students can count some of their direct care hours toward their clinical.

Each individual pays about $1,600 to go on the trip sponsored by a Christian group.

Moore aspires to be a nurse in the Triad. “ICU is what I hope to do. I’m very detail oriented.”

In ICU, communication is important. “In hospitals, a nurse is an advocate for the patient,” she explains.

Communication with patients and family members is a key part of a nurse’s work. During the mission trip, she used her Spanish to communicate with family members, reassuring them and delivering post-surgery instructions.

Each volunteer provided 50-60 hours of hands-on care, Moore says.

She graduates in May.

Next March, Crane says, another group of nursing individuals will travel again to the hospital.

Visual: Preparing for surgery. Lauren Moore, senior nursing student, is on the right.