Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

D.C. General: Too Important To Be Shut Down

She entered the Emergency Room with a prison guard at each side, her ankles and hands shackled together. Her identity came from a prison suit with a number sewn on it. She was 18 weeks pregnant and a cocaine addict. Initially I was hesitant to approach her because of her shackles and prisoner status. Unaware of the crime she had committed, I was challenged to care for her in the same way that I care for other patients – with respect, dignity and compassion.” – Theresa Bautista (NUR ’00)

Situations like this, while quite shocking, are not necessarily unique. Second-semester nursing seniors have the opportunity to apply all they have learned in a setting of their choice and, in doing so, blur the lines of student and professional nurse. Clinical settings, such as the Holy Cross delivery room, the Whitman Walker AIDS clinic and International Health with the Red Cross, are only a few of the many options given to us. In the past, D.C. General’s Emergency Room has been a popular choice for many students. While in the ER setting, students are exposed to uncensored health care at its rawest form.

Located in Southeast, D.C. General Hospital is the primary health care resource for many of the city’s uninsured residents, as well as the health care provider for the residents of the D.C. Jail and St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Facility. In the course of a day, students may care for patients with any number of ailments, from a teenager stabbed in a gang fight to a young child with pneumonia. D.C. General, a public facility, provides a unique service in that it assures needed health care regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

Despite its importance, the D.C. General Trauma Center is in danger of closing. While this may limit opportunities for nursing students, its implications for the population in need are much greater. Due to financial instability and lack of insurance, many patients wait to seek medical attention until their illness is at its most critical stage. A young pregnant mother, rather than seeking pre-natal care, may wait until complications arise to seek medical attention. D.C. General has also become a source of primary care rather than a facility solely for emergencies. Health education is very limited and preventative services are almost non-existent. A man with blurred vision and in need of glasses may have no choice but to seek care from D.C. General’s ER.

Location alone makes D.C. General a target for trauma of the highest caliber. As a level one trauma unit, it is capable of treating every aspect of an injury, from prevention to rehabilitation. Its advanced technology includes cardiac surgery, microvascular surgery for replantation for severed limbs, cardiopulmonary bypass and a general in-house surgeon to name a few. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle of an incredible influx of patients and a huge financial strain on the hospital. any visits to the ER could be averted if these patients only had the option of seeing a primary health care provider. Resources are drained, and patients are left without options. We are glorifying the ER out of necessity, because that is all that is available. What may seem like a localized problem touches on an issue that everyone can identify with and a question that remains unanswered: Is health care a right or a privilege? If the trauma unit were to close, where would patients like Theresa’s go for health care services? If it is taken away, these people are left with nothing.

“My patient delivered her baby in the ER that night; he was stillborn. I offered her the opportunity to hold her infant, say goodbye and mourn her loss. At that moment, she was no longer a prisoner but a grieving mother. Little did my expectations as a freshman nursing student prepare me for this encounter. My reaction did not come from a textbook but from personal compassion. I have learned the art of caring, the skill to provide healthcare without judgement and the privilege to act in the spirit of kindness. The art of nursing comes from the human experience.” – Bautista

Megan Baird and Lorin Burleson are seniors in the School of Nursing.

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