St. Boniface’s head of community health, Miss Yanick, works with the people of Fond-des-Blancs and nearby towns to minimize the threat of deadly diseases.
Before Miss Yanick came to St.Boniface, she worked as an E.R. nurse at Zanmi Lasante at St. Marc, a hospital badly hit by the 2010 earthquake, and worked in outbreak response for Doctors Without Borders during the cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake.
"Before that I didn’t know what cholera was; I’d never heard of it.” Her experiences with the cholera epidemic steered her nursing career into community health, and she went back to school to get a degree in community health.
St. Boniface has given me the chance to serve the population with what all that I have learned. Community health is important to me because of the prevention aspect. I can make a difference in my community, and I’m able to work closely with people—which I love to do.
“St. Boniface has given me the chance to serve the population with what all that I have learned,” she says. “Community health is important to me because of the prevention aspect. I can make a difference in my community, and I’m able to work closely with people—which I love to do.”
The move to St. Boniface confirmed for Miss Yanick that she had, indeed, found her calling in community health.
“I’m happy to do this work everyday, because I know it’s the work I was meant to do.”
The community health nurses facilitate various educational and preventative programs at different sites around town. Whether it be administering vaccinations or holding community meetings to teach people about health issues like nutrition, tuberculosis, and HIV, every day poses new challenges for Miss Yanick—challenges that she thrives on.
She recalls a particularly difficult situation that she and her team had to maneuver.
“I remember we had a patient that had a tuberculosis who didn’t want treatment,” she says. “He was in really bad shape, almost dead—but he didn’t want to take medication or come for visits. Despite this, our team didn’t quit. We continued to visit him at home and spoke about the importance of treatment, and after 6 months he began to heal with the support and engagement of the community health team.”
Without the SBHF community health team, this patient and so many others would die. Many patients live far from the hospital and cannot afford the trip, and some are in no condition to endure the bumpy roads on motorcycle or by foot.
“We have patients that can’t come to the hospital by their own means—be they young, elderly, or pregnant,” says Miss Yanick. “These patients are highly vulnerable—they need and deserve high quality care. Our work is field-work. Of all the teams at the hospital, ours is closest to the community. Doctors can’t always go directly into homes, as many of our patients are difficult to reach. Community health teams are essential in providing comprehensive care to all patients.”
There is no silver bullet; community health is a long and arduous endeavor. Miss Yanick notes that, despite her motivated and capable team, SBHF’s community health program still has goals for better serving the community she has come to love.
“My hope is to add more services to allow people to implement what they learn,” she explains. “For example, we lead cholera education meetings within the community to discuss prevention, but most people don’t have the means to put the prevention methods into practice.“
Miss Yanick has a vision for the program, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that St. Boniface has the resources to combat infectious disease in the surrounding area. She is particularly excited about the new Infectious Disease Center that is scheduled to open at the hospital next year.
Miss Yanick knows one challenge that she and her team are more than equipped to handle. “Changing habits and behaviors is not easy work—it doesn’t take days, weeks, or even months. It’s work that’s done over time.” Miss Yanick and the SBHF Community Health team are committed to this work for the long haul.