Finding the Connections: Bruce Hoffman Brings Needed Health Care Practices to Haiti
With its extreme poverty, lack of reliable resources, and less than sanitary conditions, the Republic of Haiti exists in a state of continual need. One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, it regularly experiences natural disasters, from heavy rainstorms and earthquakes to hurricanes and severe droughts. But the desire to serve others far outweighed the potential hardships and risks to be faced when Bruce Hoffman, a RN-to-BSN student at Goodwin College, traveled to the Caribbean country in 2013 to add his health care knowledge to the ongoing relief efforts there.
Hoffman, a registered nurse and licensed paramedic, elected to take a course abroad to help this devastated country, so in need of quality health care. From October 5 to 13, he immersed himself in an unfamiliar culture in hopes of learning, growing, and sharing his knowledge with others.
Only 7.9% of gross domestic profit is spent on health care in Haiti, compared to 65% in other countries. There is only one physician for every 4,000 people and 1.3 available beds for every 1,000 people. Hoffman’s missionary group, traveling to Haiti through Apostolic Christian World Relief, helped set up mobile clinics through Hospital Lumiere, which means “light” in Creole, Haiti’s native language. Seventy percent of people who come to Haiti are serving as missionaries.
With temperatures reaching 103 degrees during the day and personal space being non-existent, Hoffman had to adapt quickly to the change in climate and culture. Knowing only that their time must be as productive as possible, the group was initially unsure of the task they would be given. Eventually, they were assigned with performing cervical cancer screenings on women ranging in age from 13 to 80, some having walked over five hours to receive medical attention. The American students performed these exams with no electricity or running water, using only headlamps for lighting and old mattresses for examination tables. Hoffman also performed IV therapy, ECG education, routine vaginal exams and HIV screenings. Haitian nurses and nursing students observed, learning the procedures.
Exhausted — but inspired and enlightened, Hoffman detailed his life-changing week in a journal. He returned to the United States with a wealth of new knowledge and life lessons, discussing his experiences in a presentation to the Goodwin students and faculty in December. “The biggest lesson I learned is that happiness is not derived from material wealth,” he said. “The people of Haiti have nothing, but they are filled with happiness and positivity regardless.”
Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes wrote that “culture consists of connections, not of separations.” Hoffman now uses this quote to describe his experience in Haiti, noting he “was able to find all the similarities among the differences.”
Having graduated in December, 2013, Hoffman has secured a faculty position in the nursing program at Springfield Technical Community College. It’s been said that in times of great need, Goodwin graduates run toward a crisis rather than away from it. With his experiences in Haiti now part of his working knowledge in health care, Hoffman will bring a level of invaluable expertise to his future work.
By: Hannah Stacy