A look at a rural health clinic

Author: Callie Johnson

On their first day at the Municipal Health Clinic, Brooke Latulippe and Margareta Sikorski had no shortage of excitement: two dog bites, two motorcycle accidents, and an axe injury.  They jumped right in, cleaning, disinfecting and giving tetanus shots.

Normally, though, they do consultations, pre- and post-natal checkups, deliveries, immunizations and IUD insertions.  The clinic serves as the local health point for the community of Babatngon, taking care of anything that doesn’t require urgent care at the Tacloban hospital.

Margareta and Brooke are almost finished with a B.S. in nursing from McGill University, and the five weeks they spend volunteering with VFV will serve as their final internship.

Rural clinics in the Philippines, like in many places around the world, have limited medical supplies and little modern technology – but they make do with what they have.  To make sure they have adequate supplies in stock, the Babatngon clinic groups things like immunizations, IUD insertions, and lab tests like urine samples on different days of the week.  One dentist works between several clinics, meaning that dental appointments can’t be offered at every clinic on every day.  Brooke and Margareta told me that one of the most important lessons they’ve learned at their placement is how to be more resourceful and work with what’s available.

Work here has also shown them how wasteful practices in the Western world can be.  Since the Babatngon clinic has limited funding, families often have to buy their own medical supplies for the doctors and nurses to use.  This, said Brooke and Margareta, has given them practice being precise.  “If a patient comes in for a vaccination, they need to buy their own syringe.  It’s important for us to get it right the first time, because otherwise they’d have to go get another one.  There are no extras lying around.”

Volunteering at the clinic has also given insight into cultural differences.  Brooke told me she’s been impressed with how strong and resilient people are.  “Filipino kids can watch themselves getting shots and they never cry.  If they’re scared of the needles, they barely show it.”  Boys, she said, are also remarkably tough during their circumcisions – which they get between the ages of 8 and 13.  Another major difference can be seen in delivery and maternity care; this is a main focus at the Babatngon clinic.  Margareta described how pregnant women arrive when they’re almost ready to give birth – much later than they would back at home – get it over with, and walk out a short time later.  “The experience is completely different here.  There are no epidurals, and labor is never induced, but the women almost never scream or show that they’re in pain.”

Brooke will start working at a hospital in August and Margareta will continue on to get her masters’ degree.

Both said they would recommend this program to other nursing students.  “It’s definitely improved our practice,” Margareta said.  “We’ve gotten experience doing things more intuitively, without all the technology.”

“They’ve taught us more than we’ve taught them,” Brooke added.

Ms. Callie Johnson is a VFV Media Intern.

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