Improving healthcare for all people of the Bay Islands

Posted in: Clinica Esperanza

Carolina (Nurse) Shares About Her Experience in Roatan [Volunteer Post]

Carolina generously volunteered her time at the clinic for 2 months. She was a standout volunteer not only because of her impactful nursing and language skills but because of her positive attitude and genuine patient care. We miss you here Carolina and hope to see you back again soon.

My time as a nurse in “Clinica Esperanza” and Roatán
After my graduation from nursing school in Münster/Germany in April I wanted to take the opportunity to work as a volunteer and gain work experience abroad. So I decided to spend 4 month in Honduras, 2 of which I worked in Tegucigalpa in a public hospital before coming to the island of Roatán. Here I spent the 2 remaining months working in the “Clinica Esperanza” in Sandy Bay.
Now I want to take the opportunity to tell you a bit about the work in the clinic and life on Roatán.
After having spent some time in mainland Honduras, the change coming to Roatán was quite big. Suddenly there were lots of foreigners, lots of English was spoken and everything more expensive. (Of course in comparison to the prices for groceries in Germany it was still quite cheap). On the other side of course there were beautiful caribbean beaches, less pollution and less traffic.
Another difference appeared to be that the problem of poverty didn’t seem to be as big as on the mainland. A fact that I learned not to be true later during my stay. I think at times the beautiful beaches and sunshine can give you a false impression of life for the local people in Roatán, especially when visiting West End and West Bay.

First days in the clinic
The first few days in the clinic were very exciting. Getting to know the other members of staff and the volunteers, the building and the working routine. Luckily I always had someone that I could ask all the questions I had and I was given a good orientation. Generally there are different parts of the clinic that I could work in as a nurse. There is the triage area, the pharmacy or the general “nurse” shift. However you have to be quite flexible about your working place and be able to work in a team with all its members at any time during the shift. In my opinion that made it all the more interesting.
As I had learned to speak a bit of Spanish in Tegucigalpa, I was sometimes asked to translate for other doctors during their consults. By doing that I also got a little insight in the work of the doctors in the clinic and examinations, which was very interesting for me as well.

Working in the clinic
I started working in the triage room, where the patients come in to be weighed, taken their vital signs and asked about their primary complaints. Especially in the mornings it can be quite busy in this room, but it was my favourite place to work, because you have a lot of contact to the patients in the clinic and are able to decide very quickly, if a patient needs to be seen by a doctor sooner than the others due to his or her condition. After the triage was done at some point during the morning, and all the patients had been seen, it was always easy to just go to another section of the clinic to offer your help. Usually there is always something you can do in the clinic, be it in direct patient care or some other area.
As a recently graduated nurse it was also a great change for me from being the student asking questions to the person being asked questions by others. I also learned the differences and similarities between my work in Germany and the work here, working with both American and Honduran staff. What I generally enjoyed very much was the positive working atmosphere and the way that everybody was willing to learn something new.

Free time
Besides working in the clinic there was always plenty of time to spare for the many possible activities that can be done on Roatán. One of the first things that comes to mind thinking about Roatán is diving. After having done my certification just before coming to Roatán, I enjoyed going diving after working in the clinic or on the weekends. But even for people not wanting to do a dive course, there is so much to explore by snorkeling.
One weekend I went on a tour of the island with a couple of other volunteers of the clinic, which gave us the possibility to explore the island guided by a local to places far away from the busy tourist centres. We met at the clinic in the morning and headed towards the east side of the island, were we visited the villages of Punta Gorda and Oak Ridge and some other interesting sights. It was fascinating to see the life of the island where it isn’t all about tourists. Of course they offer activities and souvenirs to tourists when they do come, but it hardly compares to villages like West Bay and West End.

Other clinic activities
Apart from working in the clinic directly, there were other possibilities to take action in the community. For example I spent a morning with a couple of other volunteers in a local school doing eye exams and handing out glasses to the children if needed. It was really interesting to have the opportunity to get in contact with the local children away from the clinic who were very excited to see us work there as well.
Another afternoon I was, together with another nurse from the clinic, given the opportunity to visit the public hospital in Coxen Hole. First we were given a tour around the clinic, afterwards I spent a couple of hours assisting in the pediatrics ward. This experience made me not only appreciate the standard of healthcare we have at home, but also at Clinica Esperanza. There was no running water, the bad condition of the building, no possibility to sanitize your hands. One of the incubators in the neonatal ward was missing a door and was heated by heated I.V. bags lying next to the child. The nurses on the ward were very well aware of this difficult situation and tried to cope with it in the best way they could. “We may not have any supplies, but we have experience, love and faith” was a very true sentence one of them said to us. For me it was amazing to see how they could go on working under these difficult conditions, it made me rethink all the problems we complain about at home.

In conclusion I can say that the time I spent in the clinic was one of the best opportunities to develop both professional and personal. I am truly thankful for all the experiences that I made, the people that I met and the work that I did.
The work that Ms Peggy has done on Roatán really is something unique and amazing and she herself is an inspiration for me as a nurse and my future work. She told me that they never say goodbye but only “See you later!” I really hope that in the future I will get another chance to work in the clinic for some time.
Thanks so much to all the people I’ve met for the time that I will always remember. – Carolina Hüttmann, Nurse, Münster, Germany