It’s my last night in Jamaica, and I have had a great two weeks working here!  I have learned a lot about the medical system here in Jamaica and have seen a lot of patients!  I’ll give a quick run down of the way my weeks were set up, followed by some things that I enjoyed most about the resort, and finally some helpful cultural/medical tips that are different from how things typically go at home!

Monday/Tuesday: Port Maria
This is a rural hospital and is the closest of the three locations.  ~ 30minutes by car.  My day typically went from ~8am-4pm, occasionally finishing a little sooner.  I spent a little bit of time up in the ward, but mostly I worked in a room right around the corner from the A&E (Accident and Emergency) seeing patients (mostly patients from the A&E but sometimes also patients that were being seen for immunizations in the outpatient setting that nursing also thought could benefit from seeing a doctor).  Sometimes it was a little slow at the very beginning of the day, but it always picked up and then there was never a lack of patients to be seen before the end of the day.  I probably saw ~10-20 patients per day.  The volume here was definitely a plus.  One of the general doctors was staffing the A&E, which was definitely a benefit because especially at the beginning, I had questions about what medications were available in the pharmacy, how to get someone referred to get a hearing test, get an echo, or see a subspecialist.  I think that is one of the more challenging aspects of the trip– just figuring out how to navigate the healthcare system here.  The general doctors in the A&E were very helpful.  Sometimes with the volume of patients, it would take some time to find someone to get the answer that I needed for the patient.  Here I wouldn’t recommend bringing the computer with to log patients as you are seeing them (if you are by yourself, because when I had a question to be on the safe side i would bring anything valuable with me in my bag into the A&E to find the general doctor to get the answer I needed… the computer is just one extra thing to carry for this).  Other highlights of Port Maria were getting to do blood draws, an I&D of an abscess, and start an IV (as here it is the doctors that do these things rather than nursing/ancillary staff). 

Annotto Bay
I also had a great but different experience at Annotto Bay.  Annotto Bay had a lot of damage from Hurricane Sandy– the roof blew off the pediatric ward and many other buildings.  Currently they are working in a makeshift pediatric ward, while they are working to repair what has been damaged.  Currently, they are working on the building that was the A&E department. There are two general doctors that were working there each morning and then Dr. Ramos (a pediatrician) would come to round.  It was wonderful working with all of them.  Rounds were a great way to gain some education and insight into how things are done here in Jamaica.  Dr. Ramos also highlights some differences between medical practice and the culture here in Jamaica and what we see in the Unites States.  This educational aspect was very helpful in understanding the people here and gave me more guidance in the information I should be giving for anticipatory guidance for well visits and for caring for common medical conditions here.  On Wednesdays, I would see a couple of the inpatient cases then would round with Dr Ramos and the team.  Generally, Wednesdays finished in the early afternoon.  On Thursdays, I would arrive and go straight to the clinic.  Here we would see hospital follow up patients, patients with chronic medical conditions that needed follow up, referrals, and well baby visits (for an initial hospital follow up and anticipatory guidance after being born– usually were ~1-3 weeks old and if they were doing well, they would not require any further visits, just routine follow up with the health centers to get their immunizations).  The clinic would be a steady flow and there were plenty of patients to be seen.  One of the doctors that I had worked with the day before in the ward would be there with me seeing patients (again, a great resource when you need to figure out how to do a referral, navigate the healthcare system here).  Dr Ramos would also be there seeing new patients himself.  The day would finish once we saw all of the patients that had been there waiting (typically mid afternoon).  Annotto bay was ~45min-1 hr drive.

Port Antonio
I was actually only here on one Friday (as the first week, I had spent an extra day at Port Maria due to transportation arrangements).  Port Antonio is ~1hr40-2hr drive.  One of the administrators from the hospital drives you both ways.  I spent the morning here doing inpatient (seeing the 11 inpatient patients–bronchospasm, rule out sepsis, 2 social cases/holds, a burn patient, dehydration/GE), then in the afternoon saw ~10 outpatients.  The outpatient area was a little further away from the A&E so it was a little further to go to find someone to help you arrange a referral/further care for a patient.  The benefit was that my husband, who is also a physician, was here with me for the second week and he could run up to find what we needed for someone while I kept getting a history, charting, examining a patient.  Again, Port Antonio had a good patient volume.  Seeing patients in the afternoon there was a slight disadvantage because by the lab was then closed so there was no way to send someone for lab results and then have them wait for the results so I could see them before the end of the day.  There were a couple patients that I sent for labs and then had to just have them make the next available appointment in the clinic to follow up.  It was definitely a busy day there though! The people were very patient even though they had been waiting since the early morning to be seen.

The Resort Highlights:
We did the snorkel trip out to the reef and enjoyed getting to see some fish– not as much quantity wise (we didn’t see schools of the same species), but we saw plenty of colorful different fish.
The food is really good with a great amount of variety.  We enjoyed eating at Eight Rivers, which was probably our favorite.  We spent a lot of time eating at The Patio and had some great pasta and snapper.  The staff is really friendly and the service is great!  Everyone in the restaurants, working at the bars, the entertainment team was very friendly and nice!  I have heard great things about the steel drum band that plays on Wednesday nights, but unfortunately we missed it!  Monday nights is a dinner buffet beach party which was really nice as well!
We spent a lot of our down time enjoying some amazing weather on the beach and swimming.  The weather was a little up and down the first week with some rain, but the rain here usually doesn’t last long.  A lot of times it will rain during, the night or early morning hours, but by the time you are leaving to go get some breakfast– it is all sunshine.
We would fill up the couples resort water bottle with ice water for the day to bring with us and brought little sandwich bags and would pack some pastries, cereal or fruit from the breakfast buffet to snack on for lunch at the clinics.

Some helpful things that I learned:

Asthma/Bronchospasm:  They do have spacers available at private pharmacies but the patients do have to pay for them.  I had not really thought about how nebulizer machines wouldn’t be as readily available.  One of the doctors mentioned that she sometimes tells families to do a makeshift spacer if they can’t afford to buy them by having them put an inhaler into the bottom of a paper/styrofoam  and then hold the open part of the cup up to their mouths.

Eczema/Dry Skin (especially in babies):  In Jamaica many families will put chemicals/potential irritants into the bath water (which I initially didn’t know to ask about).  These things include baking soda, blue (which is like a laundry detergent), etc.  They also will often bathe the baby in cold water and frequently will use wet wipes on the babies faces.  I found this information helpful so that I could tell families to avoid these things.  They do carry emulsifying soaps which are mild and unscented here which is what Dr. Ramos told me to recommend to families.

Neonatal conjunctivitis:  I was interested to find out that the vast majority of pregnant women with vaginal discharge do not get tested/treated with antibiotics.  It seems that because of this there is more concern for chlamydia/gonorrhea due to the fact that so many cases go untreated in the mothers.

Sepsis in infants:  Blood cultures aren’t as readily accessible down here so they rely on the clinical status of the patient for treatment.  Many babies will be admitted for concern for sepsis and then receive a total of 3, 5, or 7 days of antibiotics depending on how they do clinically.

We had a great experience, both at the resort and at the hospitals.  It was a wonderful educational experience, and we hope that we were able to help some of the children in Jamaica!  The people here were all very friendly and the patients and their families were appreciative! 

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