Saint Francis Nursing Stories

Nurse with a Mission

 Melissa StaufferMelissa Stauffer, RN is a staff nurse on the CAPS Unit (adolescent behavioral health) on the North Campus. During July, 2012, she participated in a medical mission trip to Honduras with a group from Medical Ministry International. Melissa said she has always had an interest in participating in a mission trip and decided last summer that the time was right.  

Melissa is currently a student at Goodwin College and will be receiving her BSN degree in December, 2012. Goodwin College gave her credit toward her degree for this trip as they considered it to be a “study abroad” experience.  

Melissa describes her experiences in Honduras in a way that clearly shows the joy and fulfillment of such an adventure, but also the empathy she has for the people that she cared for. Her day would start with a wake up at 6:30 AM, getting on the road to a village by 8:00 AM and returning to their base camp between 5:00 and 6:30 pm. In the evening, during her free time, she would shower and then spend time restocking their pharmacy and supplies for the next day’s trip.  

Every day the team traveled to a different village, some of them were hours away from their base camp. Travelling conditions were sometimes treacherous, as they rode in the back of pickup trucks and sometimes traveled on narrow and winding mountain roads.  

Upon arrival at the village she would be involved in setting up the pharmacy, vital signs station, triage area and treatment areas. Melissa frequently worked in the pharmacy filling prescriptions that the medical providers had written and providing wound care to the residents of the village.  She describes the medical needs as varying, but lists among the frequently treated conditions diabetes, abscesses, road rashes from falling off vehicles on rough roads, and infections, as well as dental and ophthalmology conditions. 

The villages that were served by the medical mission were rural, with the hospital being hours away. Some of the villages might have an ambulatory care clinic, but many of the residents get their medical care from the medical missions that visit approximately twice per year. Melissa described one family that walked 8 hours to access the care that her group was providing. The residents pay the equivalent of 1 US dollar for their care at this clinic; this allows them medical and eye care, as well as medicine and dentistry. A local resident also works with the staff as an interpreter. This person might be used to help a patient communicate their symptoms, or as a means for staff to provide patient education.  

When asked what was the most difficult part of the mission trip, Melissa answers by describing the living conditions. The mission volunteers stayed in dormitory-style housing, with the showers being outside. Indoor plumbing was very primitive, and the cots were covered with mosquito netting to protect them against insects. The mission had a cook that prepared all the meals for the staff to minimize the risk of picking up an intestinal infection. Although Melissa identifies these conditions as being difficult to get used to, she says it would not stop her from signing up for another trip in the near future.