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Review for China California Heart Watch, Silverado, CA, USA

Rating: 4 stars  

When I interned with China Cal, I had experience as a bedside pediatrics RN and was in my second year of NP school. There are other programs like Op Smile that I could have participated in as a nurse, but China Cal was something that had sparked an interest during my undergraduate career. I wanted to expose myself to global health work while not necessarily overwhelming myself with the role of a bedside RN in a completely new environment.

China Cal was a great avenue for getting involved in global health. The role of the intern/volunteer is simple enough to be taught to pre-health students. It’s not the type of program that you should go into if you’re expecting to do a lot of medical care with more autonomy as a health professional, which is why their target audience is pre-health students. That is not to say that they don’t welcome health professionals. The great thing about the people that started and run this program is they’re always open to helping you achieve your goals. They welcome new ideas and help in any shape and form.

The basis of the program is assessment and gaining funding for surgery on these kids. Your role can be very basic and I can see how some people might find that they are not making a difference or learning much, but there is no other place that you could listen to over 1000 heart sounds in 3 weeks. You do learn some things on your own but the doctors were always eager to teach and answer questions if you asked. When I went, they even had a researcher from South Africa come and introduce/lecture on a computer assisted cardiac auscultation device.

It definitely wasn't the most organize thing I've ever participated in, but I attributed more of that to the fact that 1) it's a newer organization and 2) rural China in general is not the most organized place. A lot of the schedule has to be coordinated with schools that they couldn't always communicate with. I never expected things to be smooth sailing as many of these schools were in the middle of nowhere. There are things they can learn from and change to improve their program but the passion and care they showed really resonate. I remember a conversation we had with Dr. Detrano over dinner and him saying "If you had the means to help, why wouldn't you." I don't remember what the conversation was about but that is something that has stuck with me.

I am an ICU nurse. I deal with very sick children on the brink of death more often than most people. I know what it feels like to make a difference in someone's life. You won’t get that same satisfaction in China. You’re not triaging patients, you’re not doing CPR on a kid, or seeing operations happen, but you’re giving these kids the most basic care that they would otherwise never get. It is humbling and gratifying in an unexpectedly simple aspect.

I would recommend this program for undergraduate and pre-health students. However, I encourage health professionals who want to get involved to talk to the program organizers and see what you can do to help.

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A lot

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Role:  Volunteer