You’ve probably spent time in hospital before. It is few of us who haven’t! If so, you know that the faces of health-care are the nurses. Yes, there is a team of professionals that are all part of the best-possible treatment: The Surgeon will effect whatever repair is needed (but you slept through that, didn’t you??!) Of course the Anesthetist helped you through that, and if it was your child perhaps the Paediatrician was consulted. And if something was broken, you probably even needed the Occupational Therapist!
But it is the nurse you see when you wake up. It is the nurses who make sure you are comfortable, that you obtain the correct medications when appropriate, and most importantly who quietly monitor your signs for any indication that things are not going the way they should.
Our “A” team of nurses, shown above, are (from left to right) Julie Ter Kuile (from Victoria BC), Sheila Jensen (Edmonton), Lisa Vanderbrink (Kelowna) and Debbie Earnshaw (Kelowna). Sheila and Lisa are OR (operating room) nurses, experienced in the preparation of the operating theatre and the immediate needs of the surgeon during the actual operation. Julie and Debbie are PAR nurses, which stands for Post Anestesia Recovery Room nurse, and is sometimes referred to as PACU (for post anesthesia care unit). They tend to the patient from the moment they leave the operating theatre until they are delivered to the ward.
This is the first mission for all except Sheila. All talk about the lack of supplies and resources, as do the other professionals, with particular comment about “the little things”. “There are never enough towels or blankets. There are limited supplies of gowns and gloves.” And since western surgeons are used to “scrubbing” in and out often, this can be an issue! “It’s even hard to find a Kleenex!”
In spite of the difficulties, our nurses love the team approach we have on this mission, and they have great respect for the local nurses. “They are super-happy to help with anything, they work hard!” Sheila speaks of Yeshi, a local 64-year old scrub nurse. This is the nurse beside the surgeon, also “scrubbed” in and sterile in order to hand over required tools or assist as needed. A relatively straightforward procedure at home, one of the required jobs of the scrub nurse is to count the sutures after the operation, making sure none are missing. Noting the difficulty Yeshi had with this in the first few operations our nurses finally realized that Yeshi needed glasses, and these are not easy to come by on the Ethiopian wage! A pair of reading glasses was found and donated to Yeshi who proudly wears them all the time now!
Other differences are noted. Julie mentioned that the local PAR nurses would leave patients on their own in order to perform another task. This would never happen at home!
Universally, the team nurses love the experience. Julie is thrilled, and can’t wait for the next one! Lisa, who has practiced for more than 30 years, has known that this was a goal for her from the very beginning. “There is even some African on my mother’s side of the family, I think perhaps 1/8!”
As with all of our medical professionals, the nurses are the best-of-the-best! It is a pleasure for all of us to be a part of their team.
– Peter Schultz & Dina Kotler