By Jessica Lucas, Accel. ’14
Honeymoon destination, resorts, idyllic beaches, frozen frilly drinks, steel drum music–these are things one might think of when you mention St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. To be honest, it is what I imagined when I first became aware of a public health clinical opportunity there: do some good, have a little fun in the sun.
Here’s what you don’t think of: nurses at impoverished schools making do with just a single box of band-aids; a department of health starting from scratch to collect cancer prevalence data on the island; a lack of disaster preparedness; a hospital in danger of losing its CMS certification; and a gap in healthcare education for many chronic disease patients. One team of Hopkins Nursing students was about to have an eye-opening experience.
Our brains felt like mush before we even left the States. There is so little information about healthcare in St. Croix, the culture, the demographics, everything. So we tried to prepare for everything. And that’s just what we got over the course of 10 days on the island.
On the morning of our departure, we arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with three stuffed-to-the-brim suitcases of medical supplies, donated items, and presentation supplies. Waiting for us on St. Croix were patients of all types, ages 0-107. So we hit the ground running, giving presentations on healthcare and chronic diseases, observing at social services agencies, conducting vision and general health screenings, and even teaching elementary to high school students about puberty and sexual health. It was the best experience I could have asked for in a public health nursing clinical. We saw everything, and perhaps moved a few people’s situations a little bit closer from underserved to what we used to think everybody lived like in paradise. We continued to put the footprints of Hopkins Nursing in the sands of St. Croix and can only encourage the groups that follow in them to continue with these efforts to truly make a lasting impact on the island.
After so after many days of 4 a.m. wakeups and 11 p.m. bedtimes, we were still only half-ready to leave this lovely tropical getaway as we boarded our plane back to the States with yawns and a few more circles under our eyes, ready for a vacation.
Read more about JHSON life at blogs.nursing.jhu.edu