(USA) - Registered Nurse
January 16, 2012 - Honduras
Being a volunteer nurse at NPH Honduras has been a crazy, wonderful, rewarding, and irreplaceable experience. Prior to coming to Honduras I worked as a registered nurse at a children’s hospital. I loved my job but I found myself craving something more. I wanted to make a bigger difference for people who really needed help. It had always been a dream of mine to do a medical mission abroad and when I found NPH, I knew that this organization would be a good fit for me. By day, I work in a health clinic that serves people from the surrounding rural communities. Our patients come from hours away by bus and foot to our clinic because we offer the most affordable healthcare in the area. My job is very rewarding and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with people from the community outside of NPH. I truly enjoy providing healthcare to an underserved, underprivileged population because I am helping patients to achieve a better quality of life. The clinic here is a stark contrast from the state-of-the-art hospital where I previously worked. I was accustomed to having all the newest technologies and best resources at my fingertips. The NPH external clinic is simple but adequate. Some days we have no electricity or no running water. I have learned to be less wasteful and more resourceful with the supplies that we are blessed to have. I have learned to do many things by hand, such as sterilize equipment, make cotton balls, and bag and label medications.
Here my scope of practice is very wide and I wear many hats. I am not only a nurse, but also a janitor, maintenance, secretary, administrator, supervisor, and pharmacist. I do everything from sweeping and mopping to filling medication prescriptions and educating patients about their health and wellness. Life is never dull here. As a nurse, I have to be ready for any sort of problem or emergency. I have helped deliver a baby in the back of a pick-up truck, twice, tended to many machete wounds, and careened down the windy road toward Tegucigalpa in the back of a minibus converted to ambulance, on the way to the hospital with patients.
Nursing at NPH Honduras provides such a diverse experience. There are two clinics, one for the children and another for the surrounding community, a surgery center that I get to work in when visiting medical brigades come several times a year, there are always nursing projects and education to be done with the children or their caregivers. I am grateful for everything that I have learned this year as a volunteer and I know it will help me be a better nurse in the future when I am back in the States, especially when I am working with people from other cultures. I have been challenged in many ways; I am constantly testing my patience, stretching my paradigms, and learning to be culturally sensitive.
I love the dual volunteer role. I utilize my education and job qualifications in my ‘day job’ as a nurse, and in the evenings have a mentor role in Hogar with a section of kids whom I get to spend time with and give extra attention to. I work with twenty two girls, ages 11-14, who are always an explosion of laughter, energy, and emotions. I love this age group because they are still young enough that they are sweet and love hugs, but old enough to have good conversations as they begin to discover who they are. Most evenings we just laugh and play, or sit down and read stories together, which they beg me to bring every night. The most priceless moments are when a child opens up and shares something personal about her past or her family, because then you know that you have earned her trust and friendship.
Although I still have several months ahead of me as a volunteer, I know that when I leave there will be many things I will miss about Honduras and NPH. I will miss the simplicity and the laid-back lifestyle. I will miss the abundance of children around, and hearing their voices and giggles even when I can’t see them. As many volunteer experiences result, I probably will leave this place having received more from this year than what I gave, measured in love from the children, life lessons, and all the crazy, wonderful and unexpected experiences that I never could have had in the States. It will probably take several months after I have returned back to the states and have settled into a new routine to realize the complete impact that this year of service has had on my life. But I know it will leave me changed for the better. I can already see it happening.