On my very first day I accompanied students of nursing to do a clinical day at the Knud Hansen Hospital on St. Thomas and take care of patients. There was no running water. That precious substance was available only in large clean waste cans. I said to myself, “What have you gotten yourself in for?”
Then on our very first clinical day at Queen Louise Home for the Aged upon our arrival we were asked to sit in the waiting area until all was ready. Again, the water system was not working for Hospital Ground, and they also could not do the laundry. After a while the water came on, but the staff had not returned with the new purchases of linen for the residents. I was told, “We have to have things nice for the students.”
When we extended our program to St. Croix, we did not have access yet to the third floor (previously the surgical unit) of Charles Harwood Hospital. So Ms. Armstrong and I selected an available space adjacent to the library, and our water was provided through a garden hose. We had to go outside to turn the water on and off.
The Charles Harwood Hospital roof held during Hugo, but windows were damaged, and everything was wet, and the winds had moved the heavy beds and other furniture all over the place. The whole unit was flooded and a mess. The CVI physical plant assisted us, so we could get back to teaching. However, our students had experiences of a lifetime – experiences few other nursing students could match. They cared for their patients in a “MASH Unit” for nine months in the tent hospital.
Judith Grybowski is a Professor Emerita of Nursing.