Nursing in a remote island setting

Eunice M.C. de Lima

Eunice M.C. de Lima works on Flores Island in the Azores archipelago, 120 miles from the nearest hospital. In an interview with WHO/Europe, she shares her experience of nursing in this remote island setting.

“Nurses on Flores Island must be able to handle any clinical situation: acting as a midwife, taking care of an elderly patient, a paediatric patient, a person in palliative care, a victim of a traffic accident or accompanying a serious clinical-condition patient to a hospital on another island on a commercial flight (in my case, 54 times) to satisfy the request for help from another island with fewer resources. The key for success: planning, preparation, dedication, effort and teamwork.

“In this faraway western ‘corner’ of Europe, we have to go wherever we are needed and by any means necessary. We take a boat sometimes, but usually a commercial flight, in which we accompany patients to other islands and have to stay at least 2 days before returning home.

“The nurses who inspired me to join this profession were all very different, but I absorbed what I think was the best of each one. One of the nurses was patient, empathetic and devoted herself to training others. She allowed me to accompany her while she worked even though I was not yet a nurse because she saw that calling in me. Another nurse was very versatile. He was able to do everything and saved many lives with his ability to improvise. He earned the trust of the community by accompanying them in all situations, especially by taking care of them in their own homes, and he will always be remembered with affection by the people he took care of as someone who was always available.

“Since I had my first emergency situation 14 years ago, I was determined to learn all I could from senior nurses, to train hard and to be able to adapt to any situation, regardless of the resources available. We are a small team and we have to be very cohesive, willing to go beyond the sense of duty and to give our maximum, both for the patient and for each other. At the end of the journey, we must be determined to give everything we have and everything we are for the people who need our care.”