Practice makes perfect; that's what nursing students at Florida State University are learning as they take their training into the field, all the way to Haiti.
It's a whirlwind trip to one of the world's poorest countries. The mission: to treat hundreds of patients in just five days. It's a field trip unlike any other for these students. They packed their bags along with hundreds of pounds of medical supplies and headed to Haiti, where they found maladies unlike any found in American medical books.
In this country, one-fourth of the population dies before reaching his or her 40th birthday, 13 percent of children won't survive long enough to enter kindergarten and families have many children in hopes of someone living long enough to work the fields and keep food on the fire.
In Haiti, the need for medical attention is beyond belief.
“This is Olyvia, she's frail, malnourished, eyes are yellow, red and pale. Outlook is not good,” says Nicole Williams, a Tallahassee RN.
It's a phrase these FSU nursing students are finding all too familiar.
“We're down to the nitty gritty, we're seeing worse cases, we're expected to apply what we learned at school,” says Darlene Joseph, a FSU nursing student.
Darlene wears two hats in the village of Dumay, one as an acting nurse, the other, a college student of Haitian descent. She also speaks fluent Creole to communicate with villagers on a personal level.
“I can relate as far as the teas and remedies they try, compared to U.S. It's different, they understand sickness as evil they believe in Karma, this is their last resort,” Darlene says.
It's the break of dawn as the medical team arrives in Dumay, hundreds of villagers swarm, hoping their two-hour journey will pay off. Inside the clinic, it's a race against time. Hundreds of patients need to be examined. With four nursing students and one doctor, they have a tough task at hand.
Treating, diagnosing and healing patients is the procedure they came to do, but when they leave, it's these faces that touch hearts and make memories.
“This is life in Haiti. You just have to accept it, not try and change it,” Shara Wang says.
They may not change things, but they make a difference and they hope to repeat it in years to come. Darlene’s plans to return may come earlier than expected. The leader of the medical team, Dr. Woodie Smith, has convinced FSU's nursing school to add Haiti medical missions to its curriculum.
Now, he's working on the same proposal for FSU's Medical School.