Medical Mission Trips Motivate Nurses and Give Back to Communities

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , October 27, 2009

Clair worked with an interpreter to triage patients. "My job was to find out what each patient's primary complaint was, take vital signs, and send them to the appropriate physician or nurse practitioner or dentist. Sometimes it was very challenging to ascertain exactly what the primary complaint was.

The most challenging moment for her came on the last day when they traveled to a small village. "That was the pivotal moment for me," she remembers. "The clinics all week were what I had anticipated and the overwhelming poverty was what I expected. But after we walked through that village, I just stood there and cried. They have nothing. I mean nothing. So much of the disease they have is completely preventable."

The trip was so life changing that she plans to take more. Indeed, her next trip is already scheduled for February and she is returning to Haiti.

Clair says the best part about coming home has been telling people about her experience and raising awareness. "It helps people see beyond themselves. The world is so much bigger than our own backyard."

At Cox Health in Springfield, medical mission trips and other acts of volunteerism—whether local, national, or global—are considered acts that advance healthcare in the community and can be used as points on the clinical ladder.

"As nurses advance on the clinical ladder, they are increasing their own nursing expertise, they are advancing in professional growth, and that means better care of patients," notes Clair.

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Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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