This is the second year that we have taught a nursing assistant class as part of Trade School Haiti, the aspect of our mission in Gonaives that hopes to prepare people for a job and self-sustaining life. Kathy's artisan guilds make up the bulk of Trade School, but we also have a small fishing net program, a goat start-up program, and a garden project.
Last year the nursing assistant course was taught by Martha Hanna, an amazing nurse who teaches in the US and who has years of hospital and community health experience. She also, however, has a husband and children in the States, so this year, I get to teach so she can stay at home. Lucky me!
I love teaching. Ask any of my classmates from college and they will tell you about the review sessions I used to lead where I literally sat at the professor's seat by the chalkboard and re-taught my peers the material. Teaching in Creole is more of a challenge, simply because the vocabulary is so limited - there is no word for muscle contracture, for example, and there's only one word to describe both tendon and ligament - but I enjoy it regardless.
We have covered a week of professional behavior, communication skills, and documentation skills. We've learned about childhood development and the hierarchy of physical and emotional needs. We've practiced making beds, bathing patients, dressing patients, and doing vital signs. This week, we're moving into the musculoskeletal system, tackling common diseases and how to care for a broken bone or a muscle injury. They did a great job putting ACE wraps on each other yesterday!
I have 17 students covering a range of ages and backgrounds. They are all eager to learn and serious about class, though we are struggling to overcome the epidemic of "Haiti time" which has about 1/3 of my students arriving late every day simply because that's how this culture operates. You can meet a few of my students here:
Juslene is in her early twenties. She has a 1 year-old son and she has made it through 11th grade. She works the night shift at a local radio station and apparently sends me a shout-out every night! Perhaps I should buy a radio. She is a bright student who is always first to volunteer and first to answer my questions.
Exantus (in the glasses) is a bit of a show-off, but he lives in Jubilee and wants to be helpful so he has spent several mornings in clinic with us helping do dressing changes and odd jobs. Olguy (on the right) is very quiet but extremely particular about his work. He's the guy who practices something a dozen times until he's satisfied with his own peformance.
Venelia is the oldest member of my class at 47 and she is one of perhaps 8 students who have actually graduated high school. The average education level in my class is ninth grade, but from the way some of them write, you would think it was 4th grade - not that they aren't intelligent, simply that they have been raised in a country that teaches them to read and write in a language that isn't their own (French) and when they are asked to do schooling in Creole, they are hard put to do it well.
Stephania was voted class president by her classmates. She is smart and well-spoken but quiet. She has never come late, never missed a day of class, and never been behind on her class payments. She does her patient care attentively and gently. I would hire her in a heartbeat.
Wysline is my youngest student. She's 19 years old and attends 10th grade in the mornings before class. She lives in Jubilee and was recommended for the class by Oscar and Samuela, the NA's who work in our clinic. Wysline spent 2 days in clinic with me last week helping us do bandages and vital signs and shots. When we were done, I caught her outside, carefully writing down the steps to everything we'd done so that she would remember it.