On July 27, 2013, Christine Salvucci, Assistant Chair of Nursing and RN-BSN Program Director at Labouré College, traveled to the Dominican Republic to provide treatment to the poor. Christine brought along three Labouré students: Lauren Ciavola (Nursing 2020), Lan Nguyen (Nursing 2020) and Kerrianne McMeniman (Nursing 1000). Together with two dentists, one doctor, a translator, additional nurses and helpers, the eighteen-member Mission Possible Team delivered much needed medical service to approximately 650 people in five days.
Once in the Dominican Republic, the team sets up a “traveling pharmacy” and move to a different village or batey each day. Typically they set up make-shift clinics in churches on dirt floors. The church is often the only building in the batey big enough to fit them. The team brings medication for diabetes and hypertension, painkillers, antibiotics, antacids and more. Many of the batey residents have untreated hypertension, diabetes, urinary tract infections, and respiratory ailments. Almost all have stomach discomfort from parasites caused by lack of clean drinking water and little education on water cleanliness - they drink the same water as their cattle. Many live without electricity in small one-room shacks with dirt floors. Transportation is not readily available and traveling to a hospital is impossible. For these villagers, the Mission Possible Team is their only opportunity to be seen by a medical professional.
Christine and student Lauren Ciavola, treated one man who had a severely deformed back (shown above). He had fallen and never received treatment. “Here we would have sent him to neurosurgery. But there, all we could do was prescribe pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. You prescribe what you have available and try to do the best you can”, says Christine.
Students certainly experienced caring for patients in ways that they would never have in clinical. Under Christine’s supervision nursing students performed physical assessments, cleaned wounds, stocked and administered medications. They learned by watching Chris serve patients and do the best she could with what she had.
The extreme poverty is a shock. Christine says, “when you come back you are just so grateful for everything you have.” The trip takes a physical toll as well as an emotional one.
On the last day, the team visited a barrio or slum, home to the poorest in the area. The barrio had no enclosed building for the team to set up so they worked outdoors. In this area the people have no sanitation system and they burn their trash in large piles in the street.
A woman arrived at the out-door clinic with her 4-year-old granddaughter. The girl had walked through a trash fire and sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her feet. She had been living with the burns for days and her wounds were infected and dirty and the bones and muscles in her feet were exposed. Christine, Lan and Lauren cleaned the girls feet as best they could and Chris used her own socks to cover the wounds. Chris brought the girl and her grandmother on the long trip to the nearest ER, where the doctors cleaned and bandaged the wounds with barely any pain medication.
Labouré students, Lauren and Lan, returned from this experience forever changed and with tremendous admiration for their teacher. The trip gave them the confidence that nursing is the right career for them.
“Fortunately, there are people like Chris and the Mission Possible group to take time out and help the less fortunate. I came back with a sense of well-being, an appreciation of life and a better sense of nursing care.” - Student, Lan Nguyen
“It is an experience that I will never forget and will do again and again, hopefully all over the world. It gives you a different perspective. I loved working with Mrs. Salvucci and it solidified for me that I want to get my masters in nursing. I got to work along side her, seeing patients, and figure out why you prescribe one thing over another. Going at the end of my third semester, was the best time and helped solidify a lot of what I had learned in the classroom and in clinical. I felt and still do feel extremely blessed and don’t want to waste this gift that I’ve been given.” - Student, Lauren Ciavola