Q&A with Nursing Student Volunteer Jan Hershberger
Jan Hershberger has been a registered nurse for seven years. She is currently pursuing a family nurse practitioner degree from George Washington University with a goal of being a nursing professor at the collegiate level. Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania native joined us in the Central Plateau as part of our university partnership with GWU. Read our Q&A with Jan (and check out a few of her amazing photos) to learn more about her experience.
How did your student volunteer trip to Haiti contribute to your nursing education? Do you feel you gained new skills and/or worthwhile practical experience?
My student volunteer trip allowed me to see illnesses and diagnoses that I haven’t seen in the United States. I was able to become more experienced with cultural barriers, language barriers, and less than ideal work environments. I definitely gained worthwhile practical experience and enjoyed working as part of a multidisciplinary team, composed of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physician assistant students, registered nurse students, and medical students. In the United States, we rely on diagnostic testing so heavily, that we tend to underestimate the power of a good history and physical in making a diagnoses and treating a patient. We did not have the option to use or order diagnostic testing in Haiti, so the trip helped me practice and fine tune my history and physical skills. I easily did over 300 histories and physicals in 4 days, on newborns to elderly patients.
How would you describe your time with Project Medishare in the Central Plateau? Any special/notable moments you’d like to share?
It was a wonderful learning experience, both personally and professionally. Experiencing a medical mission trip has always been on my bucket list and I am glad that I was finally able to participate in one. My time in the Central Plateau was busy, but rewarding. We saw over 200 patients a day as a team. The most special moments for me were the children and seeing the families in their home environment. It’s amazing how optimistic and positive the Haitian people are, despite the hardships they continue to overcome. My favorite moments were getting to hold the adorable babies, but who wouldn’t love that!?
How did this trip affect you or change your outlook (in general and/or related to health care)?
The trip made me feel extra grateful for everything I have, and for everything people in the United States have as a whole. It’s easy to start to take accessible, high quality healthcare for granted, or daily necessities, like air conditioning, clean water, and transportation. Going to Haiti was an eye opening experience for me. It is hard to return home and go about my “normal” life knowing how the Haitian people are living, in a country that is not that far away. We are all lucky to have healthcare, and I think it is important that people remember it is a luxury that not everybody has. Overall, as mentioned above, the most amazing part of the trip for me were how positive the Haitians are. They continue to sing and dance and smile and welcome you into their home, as if you are part of their family. There is a lot to be learned about how they treat and trust each other and everyone they come across.
Thank you Jan and the entire GWU School of Nursing team for helping us provide health care to vulnerable families.