From shanty communities in the Dominican Republic to impoverished towns in Kenya, volunteer nurses are participating in medical missions by providing much-needed care and health care education to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
More than 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to basic health care services, mostly because the number of health care workers cannot keep pace with the demands of a growing global population. Nurses can address these pressing health care issues by bringing their skills, expertise, and compassion to struggling countries around the world.
Inspired by a commitment to service and passionate about using their skills to help the most world’s most underserved populations, some nurses enrolled in Loyola University New Orleans’ School of Nursing degree programs have embarked on medical missions around the globe.
Nearly every corner of the globe has communities in need of health care workers, medical services and supplies, professional training, and patient education. Medical missions take place just about everywhere, including Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Among those nations facing the greatest challenges are developing or underdeveloped countries struggling with poverty, violence, political strife, economic instability, limited access to clean water, a lack of social service programs, and destruction caused by natural disasters. Many people in these countries have little or no access to basic medical care and medications.
A growing number of nurses—including seasoned nurses and nursing students—are seeking volunteer opportunities worldwide. Some take temporary assignments for several weeks, while others assume long-term assignments for up to a year. Nursing students may decide to volunteer overseas before accepting a position at home. Among the many organizations that offer volunteering opportunities for nurses are: International Service Learning, Foundation for Peace, Doctors Without Borders, Cross-Cultural Solutions, Global Volunteer Network, and GoAbroad.com. These organizations sometimes handle all arrangements for their volunteers, including transportation, food, government permits, and housing
Meeting community needs
Depending on community needs, volunteer nurses deliver care in a variety of settings, including medical clinics, field clinics, hospitals, home visits, and public health education programs. Nurses are often part of a team that may include physicians, anesthesiologists, allied health care professionals, psychologists, and audiologists. Teams make an effort to build relationships in the community, often working side-by-side with local residents. Nurses may be involved in patient intake, triage, examination, diagnosis, treatment, medication dispensing, and patient education, depending on their area of expertise and years of experience. They may also train local health care providers in certain techniques and educate residents on ways to prevent the spread of disease. The number and type of patients seen by volunteers varies. Medical teams with Foundation for Peace, for example, typically see 600 to 1,000 patients a day, usually in rural communities.
Medical missions benefit the professional and personal lives of nurses as much as they benefit the residents of the communities they serve. Nurses who volunteer overseas are able to hone their skills while gaining insights into cultural differences—qualities they can bring back to the workplace once they return home. In fact, a survey of leading businesses in the United Kingdom showed that employers are more likely to recruit candidates with volunteering experience than those without this type of service background.
Most importantly, medical missions provide nurses with the opportunity to touch the lives of those in dire need. For nursing students enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans, medical missions enhance the educational experience and are a reminder of why they chose the nursing profession in the first place—to make a difference in the lives of people who need assistance at a time when they are most vulnerable. Click here to request more information or to schedule an appointment.