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Home Health Care on a Mission: ‘The Care Is Indeed Universal’

Residential Home Health triage nurse Amy recently made a medical mission trip to Bolivia. Read her recollections of that unforgettable experience.At Residential Home Health and Residential Hospice, we’re tremendously proud of the staff and clinicians who give their all to deliver extraordinary patient care. Today we’re featuring one nurse’s story of making an international difference, in her own words. Currently a triage nurse, Amy has been with Residential Home Health since 2002. Read on for her global perspective on compassionate patient care.

Broadening Horizons

I’ve been a home health nurse for the majority of my career…almost 20 years. And in that span of time, I have seen and done a lot. My time in the field primed me to be resourceful, creative, and yes, even a dog whisperer at times. Those experiences have molded me into the nurse — and, really, the person — I am today. There are some qualities home health professionals must have in order to be effective: confidence, knowledge, sincerity, and being complete in our work. We can be the voice that brings calmness to a crisis, a comfort in times of bad news, a teacher of new care techniques, and a cheerleader when the patient is feeling unable…and all in the same day — even the same visit. Each day, each patient, and each visit is unique.

But what if you could take that skill set further? Make a difference to, say, the less fortunate? Recently, I had that opportunity. My daughter and I went on a medical mission trip in March to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with about 40 other medical professionals. My daughter, a 15-year-old bilingual former foster kid (now all mine), came along to serve as interpreter, but more importantly, to gain perspective on what a really rough life can look like in another country.

Unforgettable, Universal Care

I didn’t know what to expect. I completely trusted that the two doctors (and family friends) who were running the trip would handle the details, and I would just ‘do my thing and go with the flow.’ Let me tell you, the resourcefulness, the creativity, and yes, even the dog whispering did indeed come in handy. And the experience far exceeded my expectations.

Our daily schedule involved boarding a seatbelt-less bus to various remote locations, wheeling in a suitcase with medications and blood pressure cuffs and some hand sanitizer, and setting up some folding tables to begin to triage. Word would spread the Americans were present and the people would line up. No computers, no big paperwork, just me and an interpreter and everyone speaking the world language of smiles and charades. An unforgettable experience for sure.

What I learned is that my nursing skills — ones that have been fine-tuned in the home health setting — are international skills. Yes, there were things like worms and Chagas and other diagnoses I haven’t run into much or ever, but the care is indeed universal.

One village (the ‘retirement’ village) had been visited for three years in a row by this same team, and it was the day they looked forward to all year. They had so little. Their monthly income wouldn’t feed my family at McDonald’s for one meal. And yet, they were so happy and appreciative. Dirt floors in homes and shacks the size of my laundry room housing five people…yeah, it lends some perspective.

Making a Positive Impact

Some might wonder if eight days in 90-degree humidity, spending a few minutes with people only to give them a 30-day supply of meds, could make much of an impact. Admittedly, I could have been one of those people, once upon a time.

But when you are there and look into their eyes as they speak to you and they feel heard, you have made a difference. When they tell of their hardships and how this handful of Tylenol is so appreciated to bring some relief to an ailing back that works all day long in the heat, you have brought relief in that moment. When you share some basic ideas like adequate hydration and hygiene and diet suggestions to someone who has never heard it before and see a light in their eyes that perhaps these things are the answers they have been looking for, it was worth it. When you watch your child (who had a rough childhood herself before she came into your care) light up as she gives of herself, it is a joy like no other. And then to be able to bring back the experience and share it with others and inspire them to also go light their world…that is good stuff. That is worthwhile.

No, you don’t have to go to Bolivia to experience this. We can do this daily in our interactions with everyone we come into contact with. But I have to say, this home-health-on-steroids experience was a reminder that we as home health clinicians can make an impact anywhere. I’m glad we went, and God willing, I’m going back and will take some of my other kids so they can experience firsthand what is truly important: God first…family first…others first.

Visit the Cup of Cold Water Ministries website to learn more about the organization Amy joined on her mission trip or to donate to their ongoing humanitarian efforts.