Dominican Republic Recap – 4North Project and Stronger Together
Bienvenidos a Baní
If you are reading this, you likely know two fundamental truths about travel nurses; they are hard workers and learn how to have fun. Nurses’ long hours in the clinic are often followed by exciting periods of adventure and the perfect work/life balance. On November 26th, four LeadMedia team members (myself included) set off to the Dominican Republic to shadow and document 22 American travel nurses as they provided 511 Dominicans with medical care and countless more with clean drinking water. While this was no easy feat, the travelers navigated the challenge gracefully and made the experience look more like a vacation than a service trip.
What to Expect – The Clinics:
Armed with a handful of translators and two local doctors, the aforementioned travelers set up the first of two medical clinics in the small town on the outskirts of Bani called Las Calderas. There were stations for vitals, cuts and scrapes, eye exams, medicine distribution, physical therapy, and diagnostics. Hundreds of locals lined up in the hot sun to grab a number as they were called one by one into our well-oiled machine. Patients got their vitals read and expressed any pressing ailments to the nurses at station 1, who then sent them down the line to the necessary treatment areas. While our treatment options were limited in our pop-up “deli counter” style clinic, many of the local patients had never had this level of medical care. Access to simple physical therapy workout plans, over the counter medicine, and reading eyeglasses moved some patients (and nurses) to tears.
Our third medical clinic took place in the jungle mountains outside the greater Baní area in a town called “Las Yayitas”. Due to its remote location, a greater percentage of the population had never received any medical care, so our arrival was met with tremendous gratitude. We had a MASSIVE turnout of locals, so the nurses worked overtime to provide care to everyone attending. While the clinic functioned the same as the previous two, our impact felt more substantial. The people in this town had far less than their Baní counterparts, yet we were met with music, smiles, and unlimited gratitude. After the day’s work, the team met with the Mayor of Las Yayitas and shared hugs, tears, and a promise to return to his hometown that he holds so dearly. And the promise of another amazing home cooked meal!
The Daily Experience.
While the primary focus of this trip is to provide medical care and clean water to the people of the DR, it also allowed travelers to experience Dominican culture and the natural beauty of the island.
Long days in the clinic left the clinicians with an excess of emotions. Gratitude for all the privileges we have in the states, empathy for the hardworking families of the DR, and a host of stories from the day’s work. In true Dominican fashion, we regaled these tales and feelings at our local “Colmado ” or market. A Colmado is similar to a bodega, but it acts as a meeting place for friends and family to dance, laugh, and enjoy some ice cold refreshments. Gathered in a massive circle of plastic lawn chairs, our team would debrief, dance, laugh and reset.
The team was also able to see the beautiful flora and fauna of the island, both from the air and the water. On what has since been dubbed, “The Extreme Sports Day ” where you endure two heart pumping activities and test the limits of adrenal burnout. Early in the morning we all left to be driven up to the beautiful jungle mountain town of Jarabacoa. At the top we were greeted by our guides as we prepared for activity one, paragliding (parapente in Spanish). Our guides drove us up what felt like sheer cliff face made of mud and then helped us run and jump off of said cliff for a peaceful 10 minute descent through mountain valleys. You do get Go-Pro footage and photos but the view was so incredible most of us forget the self sticks we had in hand.
Next we were bussed to a nearby river for white water rafting! Here, we could appreciate the jungle up close and personal. Our friendly guides skillfully brought us down the rapids, introduced us to Mike Tyson, and stopped to let us appreciate a variety of natural treasures by helping some take a waterfall to the face. Pro Tip: Sit in the back of the raft. This incredible experience created by the 4North founder, Matt Gerwitz, takes travelers through the full gambit of human emotion, and is not one to miss.
It’s an understatement to say it’s transformative and oversimplified to say it’s eye-opening. It allows nurses (and normies like me) to gain perspective about the care they give day in and day out in the states. Simple and mundane things that they do without a second thought can be life changing to the Dominicans we serve in Baní and Las Calderas, if ever you’ve questioned what career you’ve chosen, this mission trip is sure to remind you just how incredible your abilities are and can be.
Viva 4North and Viva Travelers!