Three and a half years after the earthquake devastated his country, Patrice Jean aims to return to Haiti with medical skills that can help his community. The latest stop on his journey to fulfilling his dream is graduating from the Nurse Assistants Training (NAT) Program at the Greater Richmond Chapter of the American Red Cross.
A professional musician studying business administration and management when the earthquake hit, Jean thought he would pursue a career in the music industry. “After the earthquake in Haiti, I thought that everything was over,” he said. “But when I went out in the street of Port-au-Prince, I realized that I was fortunate and there were a lot of others in need.”
He began translating for medical teams on the ground during the response effort and realized the capacity he had to help those in need. When he moved to the United States, he immediately began studying nursing.
“The earthquake made me see how fragile we are as human beings, and how much we need each other. It also made me see that I can be a better person by being able to take care of people,” Jean said.
As he pursued his nursing studies, he also decided to enter the NAT program to reinforce what he was learning in school and to build skills for a job he could do while he finishes school. Nurse assistants—a growing industry due to the aging Baby Boomer generation—provide quality care for the sick and elderly in nursing homes, hospitals and their own homes.
“It’s really kind of changing my life,” Jean said, as well as “changing my way of seeing things.” He said he has learned how vital and simple practices such as good sanitation can protect communities from diseases, especially in the case of the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Less than a year after the earthquake, there were nearly 5,000 confirmed cholera cases in the country due to poor sanitation. The Red Cross responded by focusing on improving awareness about proper hand-washing and household water treatment, as well as distributing oral rehydration salts, soap, Aquatabs®, and other hygiene commodities.
While in the NAT program, Jean interned at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center, where he cared for military members and veterans. Upon finishing nursing school, he would like to return to Haiti to work in the medical field, perhaps even for the Red Cross.
“I’d love to work for the Red Cross because the Red Cross has a mission that I believe in: caring for others and bringing care to the people who need it,” he said.