Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Thai Nurses Day!

0800 - The air is already thick to breathe, and I can feel the humidity on my skin. The first thing I see are the clusters of scooters and bicycles lined up at the base of the clinic, in no particular order. Walking up, I hear only quiet murmurs, though all of the chairs are full and people are lounging outside on the porch and filling every bench. 190 patients from the surrounding districts, all checking in for the doctor who isn't scheduled to arrive for two more hours.

0830 - Inside the clinic, community volunteers work diligently to check patients in by performing standard vital measures that you would anticipate when you visit your family provider: blood pressures, blood glucose checks, height and weight, and brief complaint or major diagnosis. The patients carry their own medical documents, bound like a small paperback book.

0900 - There are four areas for exam: one space for procedures or traumas, one room with three beds for exam, another room for the doctor, and finally an area where nurses are able to see the more stable patients who do not require full examination. We accompanied the SUT students into exam room one. As the patients started filing in, there was barely time to process the lack of privacy in conversation or exam. Time flew as we worked with the Thai students to address previous history and work up new findings, even sending a couple of patients to the hospital for further testing.

1200 - As we took a break for lunch, the clinic was still a constant buzz of activity. To consider the volume of patients with the availability of staff, resources, and space, the actual efficiency is an impressive example of health care in the rural setting. No one is turned away or left behind.

When we bowed to say goodbye after our first assessment, a mother took her daughter's hands, contracted up through her shoulders, and put them together across her daughter's chest, as if to say thank you and good bye. Her daughter, whose face had remained solemn and unresponsive throughout the exam, suddenly lit up, revealing a spectacular smile. And that was it. A somewhat chaotic assessment, the awkward uncertainty between strangers, the language barrier - turned perfect. People serving people - and to quote SUT's Naruemol, bringing the community into the university and the university into the community. Halfway around the world, we could not ask for a better example of this mission.

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