By Dora Acevedo, RN, NP
I went to the Philippines because I have always wanted to do a medical mission and this was the opportunity I was given to help.
I traveled with a total of 17 people including myself: 10 NYSNA members & 1 staff, 1 respiratory therapist( a DC37 member), 2 FAHWA RN members and 1 physical therapist from CA and 1 nursing student. I was there for 10 days.
I have never traveled to the Philippines before. I chose this country because it was the first mission I saw through NYSNA. I also have had many coworkers who are from the Philippines so I was slightly familiar with the culture, but not of the health situation there.
This is my first medical mission. We left New York on September 3, arrived in Manila on September 4. September 5 was the actual start of the program. We had an orientation at the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) office and then we did a walk through at the Philippine Orthopedic Center. The next day, we visited the Philippine General Hospital and the National Mental Health Institute. On September 7th, we flew to Tacloban City. The next day, we visited the barangay (village) in Basey, Samar where we will be holding the medical mission and had an orientation at the house of the barangay captain. September 9th was the actual day of the medical mission.
The high point of the trip was on the day of the actual mission. We worked great as a team, putting our heads together to solve barriers we encountered. It was so rewarding to see when we helped people who would probably not receive any help because of their situation.
One of the challenges I encountered is the lack of medicine and supplies to help. At points I felt helpless because things I took for granted in my practice I simply did not have. But we managed inspite of this and gave the best care we could give.
A typical day in our mission … is we would meet early in the morning. On some days we visited various hospitals and met with different union workers. There we learned that there is not only a tremendous disparity in health care with the poor but also harsh working conditions for the RNs with very little pay. Yet we learned that they truly love their profession and try their best with what they are given to give the best care they can. On the day of the mission we went to the village and organized by giving job duties and setting up stations. It was a long day but very rewarding.
Now that I am back I will be preparing for the next mission by reading on medications used in the Philippines and getting more equipment. Hopefully we return to the Philippines and I will be better prepared. I have already started trying to learn Tagalog (the national language in the country) and next I will try to learn Waray, the Local language spoken in Samar Island where we held the medical mission. I will also be on the lookout for any other medical missions that NYSNA may have.
If you are planning on going on a medical mission my advice is to learn about the customs and culture you will be going to which can have an impact on the health of your patient. For example in the rural areas of the Philippines they cook with coal and wood. This exposes them constantly to smoke inhalation which causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma symptoms and they can easily become burn victims as well.
(Dora Acevedo is a 27-year registered nurse currently working at NYC Health and Hospitals Jacobi in The Bronx NY. Dora became a FAHWA member after the medical mission.)