The School of Nursing group that traveled to Haiti earlier this month pose with their translators and drivers.
The School of Nursing group that traveled to Haiti earlier this month pose with their translators and drivers.

Working under a tree or in austere shacks without running water, University of Louisville School of Nursing students and faculty found makeshift ways to provide health care to patients in rural Haiti.

The group returned last week from a clinical and service learning trip to Thomonde, a region in the central part of the country, where they provided health screenings and education. This was the first time the School of Nursing sponsored a trip to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere that faces serious barriers to health care.

“There is no place in Haiti that is not devastatingly poor,” said Marianne Hutti, PhD, APRN, School of Nursing professor who helped supervise the trip. “The clinics didn’t have some of the most basic things that they needed.”

Through Louisville-based nonprofit Supplies Over Seas, the group brought about 150 pounds of medical supplies to clinics, including thermometers, stethoscopes, bandages, exam gloves, antiseptics and a baby scale.

The School of Nursing group, which included a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse who work in Louisville, treated more than 600 patients over five days in partnership with Project Medishare, a nonprofit that supports health care in Haiti.

Most in rural Haiti have little-to-no access to basic health care, hospitals, prenatal care, clean water or sanitation systems, according to Project Medishare. One in five children dies before reaching the age of 5.

Despite providing care with limited resources, Mary Kring, a student in the School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program, broadened her abilities.

“I worked in the prenatal assessment area, which provided me with some new skills as I have never worked in this area before,” Kring said. “Twice, we were able to diagnose twins for expectant mothers using our hands, measuring tape and a Doppler ultrasound. The women were ecstatic to hear the news.”

Mary Allis, a BSN student at the School of Nursing’s extension campus in Owensboro, said working in Haiti was humbling and she plans to participate in another service learning trip through the school.

“During my time in Haiti, I got to experience more in depth what I had been getting to practice in my first semester of clinicals,” Allis said. “It was amazing to get to step out of my comfort zone and to help those around me.”