The Public Hospital, Santo Domingo

During our first day in Santo Domingo, we toured the public hospital with the head nurse. One of the more surprising aspects of this tour was that the hospital professionals are trained on a regular basis, and the general healthcare system was not as “behind” as expected.

We met many healthcare professionals, including an Emergency Room doctor and a gynecologist. We learned that training sessions are regularly held in each department of the hospital to ensure that all healthcare professionals are up-to-date on procedures, studies and safety regulations in the healthcare system.

We also visited the laboratory, the doctor’s office, the triage area, the Emergency Room, the nurses’ station and the maternity wing of the hospital. In the laboratory, we saw that various samples of tissues and liquids are tested to properly diagnose and treat patients. During a question and answer period, we found out that all professionals in the laboratory hold a degree in biochemistry, and a specialization in an area of interest. In addition, if the lab is well-supported financially, it will be regularly stocked with the appropriate tools and resources. There have apparently been times when it was under-funded, and they unfortunately did not have enough supplies to care for their patients.

In the Emergency Room, we met the Emergency Room doctor and saw the reality of life for critically-ill patients. We saw one patient with anorexia, another with an IV falling out, and another who was violently ill. Surprisingly, there was also a poster with a diagram of a diseased mouse on the wall. This was designed to alert staff, patients, and visitors that if hand hygiene is not practiced, diseases can travel quickly between humans.

At the nurses’ station, the head nurse explained the triage system, patient care, and the discharge process as well as the overall process of becoming a nurse. After completing high school and a one-year healthcare certificate, student nurses must successfully complete a four-year internship designed to prepare them for the workplace. Deserving student nurses who have mastered the theory and had extensive practical training are then hand-selected by the Dean of Nursing to become a professional nurse.

When they found out I had completed a year of nursing, the head nurse expressed an interest in touring a Canadian hospital. Although she and her colleagues would not be able to tour the Emergency Room and ICU, they would still be able to learn from our healthcare system and nursing programs.

The last part of our tour was a short visit to the maternity wing of the hospital. All babies are born in the hospitals, and typically, women who have given birth are discharged the following day. This is simply how the system works, and not due to a lack of resources.

The entire trip to the public hospital in Santo Domingo was an eye-opener, and it profoundly changed my perspective of the healthcare system! I really appreciated the time the doctors and nurses spent with us, answering our questions and showing us the work they do.