I feel grateful to have worked in the San Pancho hospital, but not for the reasons I thought I would. I had thought it would be a relief to once again have the office equipment I needed at hand. I soon discovered that the antique equipment unfolded a whole new set of challenges - ones which I adapted to more naturally though than during our first week in Entre Amigo’s makeshift clinic. Instead I was grateful for two other things: to be able to provide more comfortable care for my patients by administering local anesthetic (as it is a very difficult thing to debride someone’s teeth knowing they are in agony with every stroke you make), and to be able to collaborate with dentists here who are eager to share their knowledge, skills and limited resources to benefit a patient’s oral health. Two of my patients now have appointments with the dentists next Monday for restorative needs. What a satisfying feeling it is when team work is centered on advocacy and a common goal.
We heavily relied on our translators in the hospital, both in communicating with hospital staff as well as with our patients. When providing professional oral healthcare it is critical to include information about the daily follow-up at home the patient can do to maximize the potential of the healing process. Without the dedication of our translators, our work would be a band-aid solution and would have little long-term benefits for our clients. Through working in the hospital, I have more perspective and empathy of what it might be like for an immigrant to Canada who is in need of healthcare but is not able to communicate this need.
Our last day of clinic was a long but satisfying one; we completed all our clients and finished at 7pm. Afterwards I ran the length of the San Pancho beach which was difficult, but not as difficult as knowing that there are many more people here we did not have time to provide dental hygiene services for. From this experience I take away the bitter-sweet knowledge that what I can do will never be enough, but what I can do is something.