Honest Thoughts from a Mission Nurse

All you nursing colleagues out there… do you remember that feeling when you first got out of nursing school?  Do you remember what your first 6 months on the job felt like?  

Yea, that’s been me.  After 13 years in labor and delivery I had forgotten that feeling.  Got kinda comfortable. But now… I have never been so teachable, so eager for knowledge, and so appreciative of other’s experience and skill than I have been these past few months.

Riverside Clinic

Erlanger East family—I think of you ALL the time.

All you new grads that I only had the privilege of working with briefly before I left— I admire you.  You don’t know how many times I have pictured your enthusiastic smiles and thought, “My! They were brave!”

When cleaning and autoclaving instruments, Patti and Cindy, I “hear” your instructions still.

When keeping track of our pharmacy stock, dispensing, calculating and titrating drugs (without a pump), I still try to make you proud, Janet Davis.  Your passion for perfection as a pharmacist has never been so valued.

When assessing newborns, WWKMD (what would Kris Merritt do?) is always my motto.

And how many times I have chucked to myself and thought, I wonder if Kyle Fitzgerrald would like to come calibrate this scale for me?  I have some other equipment I’m pretty sure is past due for it’s PM (preventative maintenance inspection by our bio-medical engineer). 😉

Our trusty baby scale

JACHAO.  You know the PVCs your heart throws when that acronym comes to your ears (and unit)?  Well, it has it’s benefits, trust me, and I’ll just leave it at that.  And OSHA… I remember the first few times I asked who picked up the cardboard sharps boxes, where the biohazard waste and medical trash went… each time my colleague had a puzzled look on their face and pointed out the back window.

Meet the incinerator.  And the deep hole beside it, to forever burry the evidence of it’s ashy existence.

The incinerator
The big hole by the incinerator.

Bilharzia.  It’s a parasite that bores through your skin from contaminated water and infects your gastrointestinal and urinary track or central nervous system. Symptoms include bloody urine and stools.  This week we did a mass drug administration at the clinic for all the school children on our campus.

School children coming to get treated for bilharzia.

Now there’s a reason I didn’t choose to be a wound care nurse.  But yesterday, when I assessed this patient with a herpes infection (possible Stevens-Johnson syndrome) all over her body, I took a deep breath.  It had to be done.  There was no one else to do it.  I got out our sterile wound care kit and started debrieding. I cleaned it until a fresh layer of flesh started oozing the life of bright red blood.  My head started feeling funny.  I felt my face crinkle up.  I didn’t feel quite right.  This is not my forte’.  Not my talent.

Herpes infected wound.
A little progress after some cleaning…

After some time I leaned forward to check on the face of this 6 year old girl.  She was so still and quiet I almost forgot she was there.  Her bravery shamed my own squeamishness.  After the wound was dressed, a round of medications was given. The little rainbow sticker I gave her at the end seemed like a pitiful award for her being such a good sport.

Our waiting room of 5 benches is usually full every morning.  The last few days have looked something like this– multiple skin infections, rashes, respiratory infections, STIts, lots of HIV testing, an 18 month old convulsing with a 105 degree fever (malaria), another boy unconscious with progressive malaria (12 years old, carried in on his mother’s back for who knows what distance).  Two people came in for treatment with dog bites, work related injuries from slashing in the fields.  Creeping eruption (common in children—parasites visible and palpable under the skin).  Severe dental infections— we treat them with antibiotics and are referred to our dental truck when the dentist makes her rounds.

And then there’s the antenatal clinic.  Now, this is my happy place.  My comfort zone.  Every Wednesday I see the pregnant moms, do their assessments, educate on nutrition, healthy pregnancy, and danger signs.  Administer supplements, preventative malarial and deworming medicine.  My friend, Michelle Busl, had some formal training on ultrasonography in the States, and has taught me some basic assessments using a graciously donated ultrasound. There is a high mortality rate for moms who deliver at home, so we encourage them to come to the clinic, or go to the hospital, if indicated.

Michelle and Mary teaching a prenatal class before their assessments.
Measuring BPD on ultrasound to determine gestational age.

As a missionary nurse…

You are the doctor.

You are the pharmacist.

You are the lab technician.

Sometimes you are the social service coordinator.

Sometimes the janitor.

But whatever role you play, you are always the hands and feet of Jesus, serving in His stead.

My revised version of James 1 and Psalms 27 is the following… “If any of you nurses lack wisdom, let him ask of God, consult with your experienced colleague, if available, and it shall be given you.  But lean not on your own understanding, and acknowledge Him, read the pharmacy handbook and go study those unfamiliar cases, never stop learning and being educated, and He shall direct your paths.”


Updated version/addendum/disclaimer/clarification… 😉

In NO WAY do I assume to take the place of a doctor. I have wished now more than ever that I would have gotten my NP before coming. So those of you who have gotten your NP… I applaud you! And doctors, you have my total respect and appreciate when we have your knowledge and skill available. You don’t know how many times I thought, “I wish a doctor would just write an order and tell me what to do!” Education is powerful.

22 thoughts on “Honest Thoughts from a Mission Nurse

  1. Oh my! You always wanted to be a nurse in Africa! 🙂 I pray each patient feels the love of Jesus thru your selfless actions

  2. Wow! What hearts for God you and Michelle show. I respect you both so much. I pray His blessings upon each of you and your families.

    1. Leona, you have a huge heart yourself and so many have been blessed by your care. Love and hugs!

  3. Poor/blessed 6 year old to have your love and compassionate care. God’s wisdom will be abundantly given just as He has promised. Hugs:)

  4. Friend, I miss you and those blue scrubs sooo bad! But I am so thankful for the amazing work you are doing and the love of Jesus that you are giving to those people.

  5. Alicia!!! Reading your posts always bring tears to my eyes!!! How blessed are you to be doing exactly what God has called you to!!! Love and prayers sweet friend!

    1. Trystan, when we had a couple emergencies come in recently… I was thinking I need my “crash” team!! Thank you for the love and prayers. They mean a lot. <3

  6. Such a GREAT post for prople back in the USA to read! You are so brave and God is filling you with knowledge and love to care for the people you are serving. It is awesome that you are writing and posting your stories on this blog. You are the hands and feet of Jesus in flesh. Amazing! Praying for you and your family!

  7. Oh my goodness….I cry every time I read your stories. I am so thankful you are there helping
    those precious people with all their diseases! What a blessing you are to them all!
    I am praying for you!
    God’s Blessings on you and your family!

  8. Alicia- I remember when you were one of those brand-spanking new nurses!! So sweet and generous and always looking to learn!! So excited to see what you’re doing!! I know God will bless those caring hands to get whatever work He needs done!! So proud of you!! I wish you the best!! I will pray for your continued success!!

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