Travel Nurse Dedicates Time and Skills to Giving Back
Debra Wood, RN
After seven trips to Haiti to help bring hydrocephalic children pediatric neurosurgery, travel nurse Linda Mobley, RN, remains enthused and eager to do more.
“It’s very fulfilling to get to do mission work,” said Mobley, a nurse for 33 years. “To go to a third-world country and come back and see how much is wasted, makes you realize how blessed and lucky you are.”
From air conditioning and electricity to a seemingly unlimited number of supplies and warm lunches, today’s U.S. hospitals offer so many conveniences as compared to Haiti, an impoverished country where people will walk for miles just to get water or medical care. Some ride in the back of pickup trucks to reach the volunteer medical team.
This “is what nursing is about,” Mobley said. “Over there, there is nothing. It allows you to do actual hands-on nursing.”
While in the United States, nurses often rely on machines and equipment to monitor the patient, but in Haiti, Mobley and other nurses “rely on their skills, knowledge, watching the patient and trusting the team. What you might miss, another team member may catch.”
The teamwork, collaboration and camaraderie she experiences during a mission trip is one of the things Mobley enjoys.
“Every bit of the trip is relying on the team,” Mobley said. “Often in nursing, we say, ‘like someone, trust no one.’ You have to know for yourself. Over there, everyone trusts everyone.”
At the hospital in Port a Prince where Mobley volunteers, the electrical generator reboots about 4 pm. The power goes off for about 10 minutes. If surgeons are operating when the power goes off, they put on their camping headlights, anesthesia bags the patient and everyone continues on.
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While in Haiti, Mobley not only cares for the patients in the OR, but she also follows them after they leave the surgical suite. She reports the parents being thankful for the care their children have received.
“They are very grateful,” Mobley reported. “We have to turn several [children] away. Some we can drain some fluid off, so they are not so heavy to carry around. We try to do as many of the youngest that we can in hopes we can extend their life expectancy.”
Mobley volunteers with Project Medishare for Haiti in Miami. A Houston neurosurgeon funds the trip. Teams collect supplies all year long and receive some supplies from vendors.
Mobley began volunteering while an employee at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Now as a travel nurse, she plans a break from 13-week assignments, so she still can make the trip to Haiti.
Neurosurgeons traveling from the United States to Haiti have been training a physician in Haiti to perform neurosurgery and follow up with patients who have received a shunt. That physician has easy access to the Houston surgeons when questions arise. At the present time, children rely on surgeons from outside the country.
“These babies’ heads are humungous,” Mobley said. “You pick up the babies and their heads are so heavy.”
That is hardly seen in the United States, because infants receive a shunt as soon as the medical team identifies the problem. In Haiti, children coming for the surgery may be 5 years old. A parent must come in and stay with each patient.
Mobley also has traveled to Trinidad and volunteered as a nurse in that country. In Haiti, Mobley and the volunteer medical team stay at a hotel and travel to the hospital after daybreak, although they often return to the hotel after dark. They typically stay about five days.
“The day we start seeing patients takes an entire day, because some of the patients have not even had a CT scan, nothing done,” Mobley said. “They just have babies with huge heads.”
After Mobley graduated from nursing school, she tried med-surg and endoscopy before settling on the OR.
“I like my patients asleep,” she quips. However, she says she also enjoys educating families.
Mobley had always wanted to be a travel nurse and now was the time. She spent 20 years at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. She has now worked in Louisiana and all over Texas.
“I enjoy it and getting to learn how other places do things,” Mobley said. “As a travel nurse, you learn different ways of doing things.”
Mobley considers herself truly blessed. She supported and raised her two young children as a nurse. Now she has grandchildren.
“I love to wake up and go to work every day,” she said.
Many opportunities exist to volunteer to provide nursing care in other countries, including Project Medishare and Nurses Without Borders. Opportunities also exist throughout the United States.
“It doesn’t matter where you give back, it’s just that you do it,” Mobley said. “I encourage everyone who wants to volunteer to find a place that makes your heart happy.”