Defining Moments in Your Nursing Career Journey

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    My greatest defining moments in my nursing career so far occurred in a different country far from home with people who spoke another language and who I barely knew. But none of this mattered because we all worked together to achieve the same goal.

    Defining Moments in Your Nursing Career Journey

    I have been an operating theatre nurse for seven years. For the past three years, I have volunteered for a healthcare outreach program in Papua, New Guinea. This healthcare mission trip brings together a group of specialized nurses, doctors, health professionals and technicians from around Australia.

    The program provides life-saving cardiac surgery to children and adults who would not otherwise have access to surgery. A main role of our trips is to develop the knowledge and skills of local staff so they can become self-sufficient in providing cardiac surgery in the future.

    I remember the first time I stepped off an aeroplane in Port Moresby International Airport. I was faced with the overbearing heat and humidity. It was stifling and like nothing I had ever experienced. Driving through the streets of Port Moresby in a guarded bus made it evident that poverty and crime were widespread in Port Moresby.

    I was told to be continually aware and cautious to ensure my personal safety. This is because Port Moresby has a rampant gang culture and experiences ongoing political turmoil which can escalate into violence quite quickly.

    At this stage, I was suffering some degree of cultural shock from what I had seen and heard. However, I was also excited and nervous. I couldn't wait to start working in the hospital.

    On my first day in the hospital, I knew that I was out of my comfort zone. The work was mentally and physically challenging. As nurses we were required to stand on our feet all day on a hard floor. Things were not familiar -people, equipment, instruments and the routine. The operating theatres were old with the bare basic equipment.

    This was the stark reality and a huge contrast from Australian operating theatres.

    The local staff struggled on a daily basis to provide the best possible patient care under these conditions. However, there were never any tantrums from the nurses or doctors because a certain instrument or suture was not available. Everyone made do with what they had. Teamwork was not an option here it was essential.

    I soon began to realize that things could change here on a whim. Sometimes there were power outages and it may be a couple of minutes before the generators started working. This meant we had to be flexible and easily adaptable to any situation. The local staff demonstrated time and time again how resilient and creative they were.

    I really admired them for these traits.

    All the local people that I met were incredibly generous, grateful, friendly, humble and willing to learn. The Papua New Guinean's were so keen to learn that they would grab any opportunity they could. The local nurses madly wrote notes, photocopied diagrams and textbooks, videotaped operations and took many photos. It was so satisfying to teach nurses who demonstrated such a passion to learn.

    On a daily basis the spirit of the Papua New Guinean's constantly reaffirmed why I volunteered for a healthcare mission in a third world country. As a volunteer, we sacrifice our time and money to come to a foreign country to work but I believe as volunteers we get so much more out of the experience.

    Volunteering as a nurse overseas was challenging and I often felt home-sick but it is also made me a stronger person and made me realize why I am a nurse. It was an extremely valuable and defining life experience. In fact it was life-changing for me.

    I came back to Australia and re-assessed my priorities for my personal and work life. I found it initially hard to adjust when I arrived back in Australia. We really are such a lucky country but often we do not see this ourselves. I read somewhere once that 'humanitarian aid is the hardest job you'll ever love'. This sums it up perfectly.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 10, '15
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    About lozstar

    I have been an operating room nurse for seven years. During this time, I have worked as a scout, scrub and anaesthetic nurse across various private and public hospitals in Australia. I have a Certificate in Perioperative Nursing as well as a Master in Nursing.

    Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 7; Likes: 13
    from AU

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  3. by   Esme12
    Thanks for sharing! What an amazing expereince!
  4. by   aureliarye
    Thanks for sharing. I am starting my 2nd semester of Clinicals and I hope when I get my degree next December to do some part time missions work but I know I have to get some experience under my belt 1st. I hope to have a job as as PCT in Oncology soon so that will help. Is there a need for Pediatrics?


    Aurelia Rye
  5. by   Candyn
    I am thinking of joining an organization to provide medical care third world country during next summer. Which organization do you volunteer with? By next summer, I will have one year experience, what can I do to help with bedside nursing experience?
  6. by   lozstar
    Aureliarye there is certainly a need for paediatric nurses. My trip mainly dealt with paediatrics and only a few adults. The organisation I went through is called Operation Open Heart. There are plenty of mission trips through different organisations such as YWAM, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Operation Smile etc. Missions range from weeks, to months and years. There is normally a need for a wide range of nurses such as the OR, ward and ICU.. This has been my experience anyway.

    You also get the mission trips which visit remote communities and check the basic health of people and provide them with essential supplies and education eg. Contraception etc. Hope this helps!! I found it a very rewarding experience as I mentioned. It was also great to use my nursing skills in a different way.