Akron Children’s Hospital formed an affiliation with St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010 to help them care for sick children. As part of the affiliation, Akron Children’s doctors, nurses and staff travel regularly to the poverty-stricken country to bring supplies and provide medical training. This post is the second in a 3-part series by pediatric ICU nurse Erin Rosen, who shares the partnership’s most recent milestone to perform the first open heart surgeries at St. Damien’s. Read Part 1 here.
It’s not easy to live in a place like Haiti. (Note that this is coming from someone who just visits for a few days.)
There are so many things to see and learn, so our biggest help in bridging the gap is the Haitian staff. Cultural nuances and workflow of the hospital are especially intriguing and important to understand.
Our translators were our invaluable partners in this process. Early on, they taught me the word, “Kisa?” I found myself saying it a lot because it means, “What?”
Jackie and Kepler, our translators, would laugh and then help me communicate a child’s condition during or after surgery to the parents.
Dr. Danielle Paulin, an Akron Children’s emergency medicine fellow, was especially savvy at speaking Haitian Creole as well, and would facilitate my interactions with patients to explain their care or to work on mobility after surgery.
PICU nurse practitioner Tracey Herstitch and I took on the role of educating the doctors and nurses on cardiac care of children as well. Thank goodness they could speak English!
We worked on assessment and pharmacological considerations in these post-operative patients.
Cassie Karish, a pharmacologist in Akron Children’s PICU, helped us understand the workflow associated with mixing, drawing up medications and ensuring safe administration.
St. Damian’s Dr. Alex and nurses Roberta, Marie and Amelia furthered this collaborative discussion with their own inquiries into pediatric assessment and clinical judgment.
The 6 nurses and 2 doctors in Critique expressed that this education collaborative on the trip was very rewarding.
Although there was much to be done in Critique, there were many others working behind the scenes each day as well.
Biomedical engineer David Khujada, along with Andre and Jean Marc, worked diligently around the clock to ensure that all the machines for surgery and post-op care were working properly.
Their commitment to patient safety and staff education was incredible as they found time to answer all our questions while working through the mechanical processes of the trip.
Lastly – but certainly not least – Akron Children’s administrators Chris Weisbrod and Jennifer Fitch focused on Lean Six Sigma ideas and structural processes to optimize workflow with St. Damien staff.
This afforded doctors and nurses the chance to set more standardized protocols for daily operations and voice concerns in addressing these. Dr. Alex noted the sense of empowerment this gave the staff.
Ultimately, many on the team expressed that each day was meaningful work – from surgical intervention for these children to the medical care that followed, the educational processes throughout, and the reward of watching each patient walk out the door by the end of the week.
Over the course of 10 days, our team learned as much as we taught, and enjoyed a very fulfilling experience. My only hope is that next time we learn how to speak Creole more fluently.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.