On March 3, 2012, two nurse anesthesia students left for a mission trip to Guatemala. In the span of just a few days they provided anesthesia for more than 30 gynecological and general surgeries using skills they learned at Adventist University of Health Sciences.
“It was a wonderful experience,” says Gwen Locke, a first-time volunteer. “I’m definitely going back in the future.”
Though she already has 15 years of nursing experience, Locke has never seen lines of patients like the ones that showed up to receive treatment in Guatemala.
“Hundreds of people would stand under the hot sun for hours just to receive Motrin or Tylenol,” Locke says.
All the students had to offer and use in surgeries were the supplies they brought with them, including masks, gloves, and blankets.
“It teaches you how to improvise and think on your feet,” says Erica Shaw, senior anesthesia major.
Though challenging, both women feel they’ve grown from the experience.
“Healthcare is a very humbling experience,” Locke says. “You learn to appreciate not just what you have, but the strength you see coming from patients.”
The effect, Shaw says, is life-changing. “There’s something about giving back to the community that teaches you what your purpose in life might be. It shows that the talents you learn in class can be used in a positive way outside of your everyday career.”
In May 2012, several more anesthesia students will leave for a mission trip to Peru.
“It’s something we really encourage in our department,” says Johanna Newman, assistant chair of the Department of Nurse Anesthesia. “Not only does it give students the opportunity to practice skills outside of their comfort zone, it gives them a greater sense of compassion and mercy for patients who come in the door.”
By Rainey Park