Doctors and nurses in Boston's high temples of modern medicine have the latest of everything at their disposal: hulking machines that take glowing snapshots of patients' organs, devices that help lungs breathe and hearts beat, powerful medications that can cost thousands of dollars a dose.
So when those medical workers decamp for Haiti -- a country whose long-hobbled health system was brought to its knees by the Jan. 12 earthquake -- it can be a shock. That's why about a dozen staff members bound for Haiti from Children's Hospital Boston are participating this morning in special training to prepare them for the rigors of practicing medicine in an impoverished nation still reeling from catastrophe.
"So they can hopefully hit the ground running and not take a few days complaining that they need equipment they're not going to get," said Dr. David Mooney, trauma chief at Children's. Mooney should know: He was part of a disaster medical team that works under the auspices of the US government and that began treating patients in Port-au-Prince the first week after the quake.
One team from Children's, focused on orthopedics and plastic surgery, is destined for the central plateau village of Cange and the headquarters of Partners in Health, the Boston-based agency that operates 10 hospitals in rural Haiti staffed almost exclusively by Haitians. The other contingent is assigned to Project Medishare, which is providing care near the airport in the shattered capital of Port-au-Prince.
The two teams will hear today about the experiences of Mooney and two other medical workers from Children's who have already plied their trade in Haiti. And they will use robotic mannequins to hone their disaster skills.
In one simulation, they will use limited supplies to try to save a child stricken with shock and dehydration. In another, they will confront a make-believe patient suffering from multiple traumatic injuries. And in a third exercise, a child will be diagnosed with tetanus, the condition known as lockjaw that is rarely seen by physicians in the United States.
"It's the first time we're running a course like this," said Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the hospital's Simulator Program. "We're sort of having them unlearn their comfort zone in some ways, or really question their comfort zone, and stretch it even before departing."
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer