Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Year of Nursing

This past week was National Nurse's week, and it also happened to be one year since I graduated from nursing school.  It made me reflect and think back on my first year as a registered nurse, and I quickly saw all the joys, struggles, rewards, and challenges that came along with my first year of nursing.

Around April of last year, I couldn't even count how many times I heard, "Do you have a job?" "Where will you be working?" "What unit will you be working on?"  My answer for all these questions was a bit different from the typical graduate nurse's response-- "Actually I'm moving to South Sudan to work at a clinic for a year."  This decision was not an easy one.  I felt as if I wasn't qualified enough (or at all) to go abroad.  I thought maybe I should get experience for a year or two in the states and then go do global nursing.  I went back and forth so many times, made many pros and cons lists, and said countless prayers for guidance and wisdom.  Ultimately, I couldn't ignore God's call and knew that I had to do what I was passionate about in a place that I always dreamed of working- Africa.

Waiting to get their wounds cleaned.
This past year of nursing has taught me many things about myself and also has reassured me of the reasons I studied nursing in the first place.  The clinic here has very basic services as I've mentioned before.  It is not the busiest of clinics- usually 30-50 patients a day.  And the resources and supplies we have are very, very minimal.  I spend 5 hours a day in the clinic where I bandage wounds, give medications and injections, and occasionally sit in for the doctor when he is on leave.  I don't call physicians, give blood transfusions, spend hours charting in the computer, or many of the other tasks and skills that I learned in nursing school.  But I didn't enter nursing just so I could do those tasks.  I started nursing for the relationship that nurses have with their patients.  They are the ones who get to know the patients, who spend all day in and out of their rooms, who really get to see each patient progress day after day.

A "balloon" can brighten any day!
This nurse-patient relationship is so much different here.  First, because I work at a clinic instead of a hospital, patients come one day and I rarely see them again.  I don't get to follow them to see if they get better or if the medicine works.  Secondly, it's hard to form a relationship with somebody when you can't verbally communicate with them.  However, it's not impossible.  I've realized, more than ever, that this relationship is the very reason I love nursing.  Even at a clinic.  Even in South Sudan.  I make do with my broken Arabic, my patients' broken English, and plenty of motions.  Even though I only see each person for a couple of hours in a day before they leave, it's still plenty of time to let them know that they are loved and to try to provide them with the best care that I can give.  I get to snuggle with sick babies while they wait to see the doctor and blow up gloves to make balloons to give to the kiddos.  Every time I'm at the school and a child comes to find me to show me their wound or to tell me what part of their body is paining, I can't help but smile.  That's when I know that they trust me enough to share their concerns and know that I will help them.  It might not be the nurse-patient relationship I learned about in nursing school, but it's just as rewarding and fulfilling. 

Snatching babies to play with every possible chance I get!
Reflecting back on my first year as a nurse, I am so thankful to be in such a rewarding and loving profession.  I probably couldn't list off the pathophysiology and signs and symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome or Glomerulonephritis like I could in nursing school, but ask me about tropical diseases and I could talk for hours!  I don't think any amount of post graduate nursing experience could have prepared me for the types of diseases and conditions that I find here.  It definitely has been on-the-job training, but the same core aspects of nursing and the purpose of nursing are still present.  I am so grateful for all the things I have learned and for the opportunity to do what I love for the past year.  I can't wait to see what experiences this amazing profession has in store for me in the future!


  1. You have had a most wonderful year and we couldn't be more proud of you! So looking forward to seeing you soon. Love you!

  2. I'm so proud of you for making the decision to follow your heart and be a nurse in Africa! I can tell how joyful it makes you and how you bring joy to the little kiddos around you. I'm lucky to have such a beautiful sister!

  3. Thank God that you listened to him and took this year in South Sudan! It's been a great gift to you, and you have been a great gift to the people of Maridi (and the SLM program). God bless you!

  4. Beautiful reflection Theresa, on your first year of nursing. Your experience is South Sudan is invaluable and a beautiful way to share your nursing skills and best of all your self presence. God will lead you onto your next adventure and you will continue to grow in your nursing practice.I was very blessed to mentor you as a student at Research College of Nursing.
    Jean Fields

  5. God bless our missionary nurse! Keep up the good work, Theresa! Thanks for blogging!