A Rock in the Middle of the Ocean

IMG_1839The challenges the health care system in St. Croix faces are inherent to its location. As one of our key informants put it, who is a native Crucian, St. Croix is “a rock in the middle of the ocean.”

Public Health is notorious for forcing nursing students out of their comfort zones. Public health requires creativity and sometimes improvisation with limited resources. Here in St. Croix there is no where to retreat from that exhausting, yet exhilarating challenge. Here we are surrounded by two oceans. One is the physical body of water separating it from mainland resources, the other’s name is poverty.

As students we are witnessing public health on the larger scale of an entire geo-political community. Our analysis is not restricted to the confines of a single organization. We are in the schools, in the home, running health fairs and observing health clinics. We are where we have been asked to be and we are not sufficient to meet the demand for education, care and screenings.  We are forced to make connections between an individual’s circumstances and national policies/legislation that initially appear unrelated. History, healthcare, social policy, environmental policy and economics collide before the mind’s eye telling a story of a proud heritage, a beautiful country and significant needs.

The days are busy, almost akin to the first few days of nursing school. Our timeliness in managing to achieve all our appointments Monday prompted Crista’s eloquence: “I can’t believe we have been on time all day! Its been amazing!”

The morning began with clouds rolling in from the northeast, but it only started to rain right before our home visits at Flamboyant Gardens. There our team was, essentially trapped under a little tin roof, waiting for the down pour to end. It was reminiscent of a tropical Sense and Sensibility. Hilary was averse to the allusion: “But that’s when everything bad happened!”

Thankfully nothing bad did occur. We just got soaking wet in the sudden downpour that occurred right at the moment we thought we were safe.

From there we were split into two groups: the Child Health Care Team and the Adult Health Care Team. While the Adult Health Care Team began their work at Ginger Thomas in Frederiksted and later continued their Health Fair followup care at Flamboyant Gardens, the Child Health Care received training for the scoliosis screen to be held at a local junior high school. They also met with Sea View Home Care before finishing the day at Early Head Start. At the very end of the day, the groups rejoined for a tour of Queen Louise Home.

Don’t come to St. Croix for public health if you think it will be a vacation. Don’t come if you think it will be easy. Come if you want to be exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally at the end of the day. Come if you want to feel stressed out and heartbroken about what you see and desire to change it. Come to St. Croix to see that this is what public health endeavors to achieve. It is a constant striving for a vision and hope set somewhere in the future. It is our task as public health nurses to capture these dreams and carry them into action. We make them reality.

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