Nursing at the Hospital de Ninos Robert Gilbert

Leslie 1The main reason why I decided to attend Northeastern was because of the university´s emphasis on experiential learning and international internships.  Ever since I was a freshman, I always knew I wanted to do an international coop.  With family living in Guayaquil, Ecuador, I was lucky enough to find an internship at the Hospital de Ninos Roberto Gilbert, one of the city´s largest children´s hospitals.

The Roberto Gilbert was unlike any hospital I had been to in the United States. Here, privacy was more of a privilege rather than a right. In all of the salas, or wards, beds were lined up all along the walls without curtains separating them. Private rooms were available in the hospital, but only to those willing to pay a premium.  However, these rooms were few and far between as this hospital was part of the Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil, a charity dedicated to serving the under privileged in the city and surrounding provinces. It was a truly humbling experience to help children and parents who were extremely grateful for my aid.

One of the greatest lessons I learned in my time in the children’s hospital was about the cost of health care. Whenever I am working at a hospital in Boston, I have at my disposal rooms of supplies that never seem to run out. At the Roberto Gilbert, often I found just enough supplies to get me through the day. Unlike many hospitals in the United States, this hospital only orders the supplies it needs, down to each patient. Since the parents of the children were required to buy their child’s supplies, I learned exactly how much the supplies I use in Boston cost, and how much money I waste by using more than I should. If US hospitals learned from Ecuadorian hospitals and became more conservative on hospital supply use, I know that our country’s enormous health care expenditures could be greatly reduced.

However, what the hospital lacked in resources, its staff made up for in resourcefulness.  Creativity was vital in this hospital to make up for a shortage of medical supplies. Gloves were used as tourniquets. Spare pieces of cardboard were used as splits to support a child’s newly placed IV. Liter bags of saline were used in place of weights to provide traction for a broken leg. It didn’t matter that this hospital did not have all the fancy equipment I was used to. They solved their obstacles by making the best of what was available to them.

At the Roberto Gilbert, I never felt unwelcome. The nurses and doctors made me feel like I was one of their own. Whenever there was an interesting patient, I was always pulled over to observe. Doctors asked for my opinion. Nurses were more than willing to let me work with them side by side as an equal. By the end of my 4 months as an intern, administering medications, writing nursing notes, and placing IV lines, independently, became easy. I know that I would have never have had this experience in United States while still a nursing student, and I am forever grateful for the skills the nurses taught me. While in my previous coop I was a nursing assistant, here, today, I feel like a nurse.

Rebecca Leslie, Nursing