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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Reporting From NBNA—A Look at Global Health

Published August 5, 2009 1:19 PM by Robin Hocevar

Greetings from the 37th annual National Black Nurses Association conference! There was certain energy among the attendees on Tuesday, which was enhanced by the sea of red everyone was wearing as part of the "Go Red, Girlfriend" campaign by the American Heart Association.

Lots of talk today about global health concerns. One of the most interesting speakers was Dorothy Powell, EDd, RN, FAAN, who's in the midst of establishing a center for long-term medical mission trips in Central America and the Caribbean between her employer, Duke University School of Nursing, The University of the West Indies and the Pan American Health Organization.

The timing is right for the project. Powell said that, although 250,000 U.S. students participated in study abroad programs, with 50 percent focused on service learning, most of the trips lasted fewer than 8 weeks. The downside of short-term missions is it's hard to achieve transformative change without postop or follow-up care, she said.

"We feel the burden of the world's weight to do good," Powell said. "It may not be good enough when these missions aren't attached to continuous enterprises that provide long-term service."

During the question and answer session, one nurse who's leading a service project in Haiti over Labor Day stood up and recounted the story of a student who approached her and said he thought his work would change the lives of those he served, but ended up enhancing his life instead.

I'm curious - over the years, we've covered many nurses volunteering in amazing medical mission trips throughout the world. If you've participated, do you feel you gained more than the citizens of the underserved countries you're there to serve?



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