Twelve faculty, students, and staff from the George Washington University School of Nursing (SON) flew to Haiti on August 6, 2014 for a 10-day medical mission as part of a unique partnership to improve the health of those living in the northern part of Haiti near Cap-Haïtien.
After the 2010 earthquake, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Haitian government developed strategies to rejuvenate the Haitian economy outside of Port Au Prince. One solution was to create an industrial park, thus creating jobs for upwards of 20,000 Haitians.
The anchor of this effort is Sae-A Trading Co., Ltd, a South Korean-based global company that operates a network of garment factories across the world. It employs more than 50,000 people in their factories, many of whom make the T-shirts sold in U.S. stores and that are worn everyday. In addition to the Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti, Sae-A opened a primary school that will provide free education to 200 Haitian students, many of whom have parents working in the park.
After establishing the park and school, the next step has been to provide housing and health care for the community. To support this endeavor, USAID built 750 housing units with clean running water and electricity (remarkable since only 12 percent of Haitians have access to consistent electricity). Sae-A made a generous gift to support SON faculty and student travel costs to Haiti and provided housing, food, and transportation for the SON team while in Haiti. It is expected this will be a long-term partnership integrating health care into economic development efforts for Haitian citizens. The SON team plans to make an annual trip to Cap-Haitien with Sae-A to provide health care services. Additionally, through several interdisciplinary relationships and programs at GW, SON’s students and faculty have the opportunity to travel to Haiti to continue this good work.
While in Cap-Haïtien, the GW nurses partnered with a group of South Korean-based doctors from Pusan National University, also sponsored by Sae-A, to provide treatment to almost 3,000 patients over the course of six days. The GW SON team spoke with patients and physicians through translators. During the mission, three languages were consistently used: English, Korean, and HaitianCreole.
The team encountered and treated a wide variety of illnesses. Health care providers encountered high levels of hypertension in fairly young, non-obese patients, unusual for other parts of the world and a cause for major concern. Many patients were also suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, eye disorders such as glaucoma, generalized pain, and a history of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease. The donation from the Henry Schein Company helped the nurses to effectively treat these patients, as GW Professor of Nursing Dr. Malinda Whitlow stated, “The unique experience providing health promotion, disease management, and being able to treat acute illnesses in the Haitian community was made possible with the donated items from Henry Schein. On the last day of the medical mission, a patient who was seen several days in a row to receive wound care for a foot laceration stated, ‘God be with you’ as he left the clinic. Those heartfelt moments could not have been possible without the dedicated medical staff and donors, such as Henry Schein.”
All patients who the team treated had their vital signs checked at triage, where the GW nursing students worked with two faculty supervisors, including SON Dean Jean Johnson. The triage team then sent patients to an appropriate specialty station: general surgery, OB-GYN, family medicine, or a pain clinic. All patients received a 30-day supply of multivitamins and a six-month supply of anti-parasite medication. In acknowledgement of the great need for medical education, all patients went through education stations, which included GW nursing student-created videos and hand-outs in Creole that address a range of topics, including hypertension, hand sanitation, rehydration, cholera, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy complications. Additionally, every adult man and woman received education about gender violence.
The George Washington University School of Nursing
In 2010, the GW School of Nursing was established as the university’s 10th academic institution, although the history of nursing education spans over 100 years at GW. The current status of SON gives the nursing program the recognition needed to reach its full potential and acknowledges the national need for an expanded nursing workforce at all levels of practice to serve in leadership, research, and direct-care capacities. The School of Nursing is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
For more than 25 years prior to having an independent nursing school, GW offered a range of degree and certificate programs at the baccalaureate, graduate, and post-doctorate levels. These included a Family Nurse Practitioner post-master’s certificate, as well as an Adult and Family Nurse Practitioner program at GW’s Foggy Bottom campus that was offered in collaboration with George Mason University.GW’s School of Nursing has been consistently recognized for its excellence in teaching, and it is ranked among the top 50 schools of nursing by US News and World Report, placing it in the top 10 percent of ranked nursing schools and the top seven percent of the more than 730 schools offering undergraduate and/or graduate nursing degree programs. Additionally, student enrollment continues to grow across all programs—BSN, MSN, and DNP—with more than 600 students in 14 programs, pathways, and specialty areas. These students reside in more than 47 states, countries, and military installations. Overall enrollment is expected to continue to increase, both through existing and new programs set to launch in 2015.