Exceeding Expectations: My First Mission Trip
Beth Goodheart RN, BSN, CNOR
Sitting at the airport I look around at everyone about to leave for their first mission trip wondering if they are prepared for what they’re about to do. No one really knows what the trip involves, or the amount of time and effort that needs to be put in. I’ve been to the Dominican Republic twice already and still remember my first trip and the doubts that I had when we arrived.
We got our luggage and walked out of the airport to three buses. One was packed with our suitcases and the other two with about 65 Registered and Student Nurses. It was so hot, two of the buses had cracked windshields and the one bus carrying the luggage had the air conditioning!
I remember watching the paved roads turn into dirt roads and undeveloped roads. My eyes grew wider as we arrived at a gated area, our living quarters. The buses stopped and waited for the gate to be opened and after the buses pulled in the gate was shut behind us. This is where we would be staying when we weren’t in the clinics.
The sleep rooms consisted of rusted bunk beds with mattresses that were old and about two inches thin. The bathroom stalls were at the end of the room with three shower stalls across from them. Each shower had a slow steady stream of cold water that felt good considering it was so hot there, but you had to be careful not to get it in your eyes or mouth because you’d run the risk of getting sick. The water is not safe to drink unless it’s bottled or from the water cooler where we stay.
After I dropped my bag off at our sleeping quarters and claimed my bed I walked to the dining hall for lunch thinking, “Oh no, what did I get myself into!” There were many of us thinking the same thing. After we ate we unpacked and started to prepare and separate the medications and supplies.
We were in the Dominican Republic for five days and three out of the five days we spent working in the clinics. Each day we split up into two groups and went to two separate clinics to work. We got up early, ate breakfast, and arrived at the clinic site between 8:30-9:00am and left when the last family was seen. One would spend the day with an interpreter, if you didn’t speak Spanish, while discussing concerns, doing health education and assessments, and distributing health-care kits to families.
The clinics were usually held in churches, and in order to provide privacy we created individual rooms by hanging bed sheets. The amount of patients one would see over the course of the day was incredible; we hardly took breaks, just a quick lunch and then back to seeing patients. Here we weren’t just seeing one patient we were seeing one patient and their family, so we would take turns eating so people could continue to be seen. It was amazing to see how many people were there to help. The people from the town that the clinic was held in come to volunteer, translate, interpret, direct people where to go, or make coffee to keep everyone energized. The people were so grateful that the nurses were there in the Dominican Republic to help.
People come from all over the Dominican Republic, some walk half a day and sit waiting for hours to be seen by the nurses from the United States. For some this is the only healthcare they receive. They are so appreciative of the care that we give and the time that we spend with them. By the end of the trip it was hard for me to leave, for me this trip made me realize that we have so much more to give.
Last edit by brian on Feb 13, '09