Rozalyn is a NICU RN who recently brought her Jaanuu scrubs on a volunteer medical mission to Uganda. This trip was life changing for her – and we’re inspired by her dedication to helping others.
Name: Rozalyn S.
Profession: NICU RN
Where are you from? Walnut Creek, CA
Tell us a little about your trip to Uganda.
Where do I even start? There was heartbreak, there was euphoric joy, there was guilt, and there was peace. One nurse practitioner literally gave the shoes off her feet to a little boy who didn’t have any. We gave out glasses to people who couldn’t read the words in front of their face for years. We gave out shoes to people who walk miles barefoot. Sunglasses are such a hot commodity there because the sun is so bright and no one has sunglasses or hats. It’s these realizations that are so humbling. Also, their culture is completely opposite from ours, from what they wear to how they interact. The saying “it takes a village” is evidenced by the way they care for each other. As a nurse, I assessed vital signs, did head-to-toe assessments, and passed along their chief complaints to the providers. And I did it all sitting knee to knee to the patients, not behind a desk.
As a nurse, what is your favorite part of making these trips?
It’s quite simple. I have always been hooked on loving people. That’s it. Nothing super fancy. There is something so humbling to helping people when they’re at their most vulnerable. We all do it in different ways, some more then others and some in so many unintentional ways. My favorite part was shaking their hands and seeing their smiles. They were so grateful for Tylenol and anti-acids!
Would you encourage other nurses to take similar trips? Why?
HECK YES! So often we don’t pursue our dreams because the fear of the unknown outweighs our determination to just go. I’m living proof that you need to push past that hesitation and make it happen. The fire that builds in you creates a new you, a fresh start and a confidence that’s undeniable. Being a nurse is more then clocking in and out of a shift. It’s the ability to care for any and all people who need help.
What is one of the most powerful lesson you learned during your trip?
I would be so exhausted before the day even began, but then we’d pull up to the school, or the church, or the random building, and people would be lined up as far as the eyes could see. These people walked for miles and camped out just hoping we’d show up, and the rumor was true. We complain so much about our healthcare system, but you know what? I’ve seen firsthand that it could be way worse. I’d say the biggest lesson I learned was that we don’t need as much as we think we do to be happy. We just need each other.
What advice would you give to a nurse heading out on his or her first medical mission?
Other than bringing comfortable shoes and plenty of socks and underwear? I would say, be prepared to feel completely exhausted. Feeling like, “What the heck did I sign up for?” … but then reflecting on the day and feeling like your heart grows a size each day.
What was your favorite moment/patient story of this trip?
One mother wanted her baby looked at because she was four months old and couldn’t hold her head up. As the nurse practitioner assessed her, she immediately started seizing. The NP ran that baby over to us and shouted, “Can we make a Diazepam suspension?” The two pharmacists dropped what they were doing and whipped out their calculators. Another nurse and I got the water, found an eye dropper and we diluted the pill into it and squirted it into the baby’s mouth. We stopped the seizing, then prepared the mother to send her baby to the main hospital in one of our vans. The mother began to cry and say that she was scared and had no idea what was happening. It’s so difficult to describe the emotions in the room that afternoon, but it’s something I’ll never forget. This is what we’re here for.
How has this experience changed you as a nurse?
I’m so much calmer and open minded. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do for others, and I’m so grateful for more downtime and less busy time. I was always finding my self worth in being busy and doing so much. Now I take those extra minutes to bond with families and to truly hear people, like I did when I was a new nurse.