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Volunteer Stories from Tieghan

The Definition of a Nurse by Tieghan Killackey (McGill Nursing Intern)


After reflecting on the past month as a nurse in Uganda, it is hard not to continually come back to focusing on the vast differences in health care that are present in every aspect of life here.  From immediate medical problems such as malaria and HIV to the environmental influences of adequate food, clean water and safe shelter, the similarities to North American health practices seem to be limited no matter which way you turn.  

Throughout our experiences with Shanti Uganda, from teaching teen girls yoga to delivering babies on the floor of the hospital, there has been one realization that continues to be illustrated time and time again : that the definition of a nurse is as vast and all-encompassing no matter what clinic, country or continent one is on.  This realization was a source of comfort for me as it became clear that whether I was in a rural village in Africa or a major tertiary care centre in Montreal, the role of a nurse is always as expansive, flexible and most importantly, as irreplaceable as anywhere.  The ability to transition from the role of surgeon to social worker, from health educator to human rights activist with seeming ease, grace and inextricable intelligence has been a quality I have encountered in every nurse and midwife not only here in Uganda but in North America alike, and is a quality I hope to one day possess myself.  

Despite the incredible things we have witnessed here, both horrifying and amazing acts of resilience and strength, the fact that nurses continue to work with the sole goal of improving patient care, no matter what the conditions, makes me unbelievably proud of the profession of nursing and my colleagues across the globe.  The efforts of nurses and midwives makes me hopeful for the future of health care, especially in developing nations, as it is clear how much of an impact one educated nurse, midwife, or health professional can have on the illness experiences of thousands of patients. Whether it is walking through the dirt roads of the villages and waving to children suffering from infections, or walking through the cement hallways of the hospital and waving to the new mothers suffering from malaria, these lessons continue to resonate and will follow me through the rest of my nursing career.  

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