Nurse Launches Medical Mission Org. - Here’s How To Join.
By Kathleen Colduvell RN, BSN, BA, CBC
Nurses with Purpose is a South Carolina based medical mission organization. Founded in 2008 by Licensed Practical Nurse, Elaine Alston, this organization visits South Africa several times a year to work with mobile medical units to provide care to those living in rural settlements.
As an organization that is “Nurse Focused, Nurse-Driven, and Nurse Created,”- Nurses with Purpose offers volunteers a chance to not only help others but also experience the culture and beauty of South Africa.
How it began
Nurses with Purpose (NWP) was started accidentally while Alston was in nursing school. “I began volunteering at a local hospital and the love of giving back was formed. The people who I thought, “needed me” ultimately blessed my life through their heroic war stories, stories of car accidents where they saw divinity but knew it wasn’t their time, to a 101-year-old woman telling me to be steadfast because I have a purpose,” said Alston.
Unbeknownst to Alston, her grandmother, whom she never met, was a nurse. She worked in one of South Africa’s well-known hospitals. This, along with her connection to South Africa, she was born in Johannesburg, is why South Africa is the international focus of her mission organization.
Although raised in the United States since 5 years old, Alston felt a homecoming in 2010 to her native land. “I discovered that my grandmother, whom I never had a chance to know, was a nurse. In my eyes, she signified strength and fire by overcoming odds in an apartheid nation. She earned the right to work in one of South Africa’s prestigious hospitals. I feel this is her legacy that has been bestowed in my heart,” said Alston.
Medical missions scholarship
To honor her grandmother, the Emily Ndaba Foundation Scholarship was created. The goal of the scholarship is to attract more nurses to participate in medical missions. Applications are accepted yearly and in order to qualify prospective applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Be a current Student Nurse or LPN that is on a wait list for an RN program
- Be nominated by a peer, family member, or self-submission
- Fill out the mission trip application form and pay the submission fee
- Complete the interview process for an NWP mission trip
Speaking with Elaine
Nurse.Org discussed with Alston the growth of the organization, partnering with other international medical mission organizations, her love of South Africa, and advice for nurses interested in medical missions.
KC: Are there any plans to expand missions to other countries?
EA: Actually, I’m fresh off the plane from Guatemala. I didn’t plan on it, but a former boss of mine, Chuck Underhill, who is in partnership and supports a ministry called Misioneros sin Fronteras (Missionaries without Boundaries), saw what Nurses with Purpose was doing and thought we could be an asset. They have plans to open a rescue center that will serve the indigenous people of Guatemala. The local villages are in dire need of this type of service due to the lack of healthcare facilities in the area.
KC: According to the website the fee of the mission is roughly $2000 without airfare - how do you compete with larger organizations that offer lower mission fees to the nurses?
EA: We specialize in well-balanced mission trips. What this means, is part of your time is spent with the mission at hand, and the other time spent is for the nurse to have some R&R. I believe in an authentic experience, that is enriched with history and culture. The goal is to attract more nurses to participate in humanitarian efforts.
KC: What type of care does the organization focus on during mission trips?
EA: The nurse is exposed to a wide variety of the clinical experience. We utilize a mobile medical unit that travels to rural settlements, we perform screenings, visit an orphanage and we are big on education such as teaching refresher courses for the staff as deemed by the DON of the clinic. So, our focus is to provide the nurse with a perspective on global healthcare.
KC: What is a typical day for a nurse during a mission?
EA: We work about 8 hours a day seeing anywhere up to 500 people. The team members disperse to their assigned areas, such as ER, Triage, Mental Health, Post/Ante Natal, HIV Testing, or other screenings. In the mobile unit, you are able to visit where the natives live and witness first-hand issues they face. We end our day by debriefing, socializing and building a bond during dinner.
KC: Approximately how many nurses are a part of the organization?
EA: Our board of directors are LaShawna Tukes, RN and Kezia Nixon, DNP. With the growth of NWP, we have just added several nurse leaders, who will be team leads for future trips. All nurses who have volunteered with us locally and internationally become our family.
KC: What advice do you have for nurses that would like to be involved in medical mission trips?
EA: Do your research! Just because it says, “Mission Trip” doesn’t mean it has a medical component. I conduct Free General Information Sessions on how to find a mission trip that’s right for you. Here are the top questions you must ask any organization that you are interested in.
1. First be clear and ask yourself, what is it that I want to do during a mission? Is it surgery? Is it to serve the indigenous people and of what country?
2. If I want to explore after the mission is over, is it included? If not, what is the additional cost? (this is where BIG price differences come into play)
3. Does my cost include airfare? (This also is a BIG price difference)
4. What are my work hours?
5. Will I perform invasive procedures?
6. What vaccines are required for the geographical region?
7. If I book my own flight, will a representative from the organization meet me at the airport?
8. What type of sleeping quarters are arranged? Is this religiously affiliated? How big are the teams?
What to expect
According to the Nurses with Purpose website, typical international missions to South Africa are six days of clinical days and three days of relaxation and tours. Missions are comprised of 8-10 RNs and/or LPNs as well as a board member. Each volunteer is screened, and hand selected by the board. Once selected for a mission a travel consultant helps the volunteers with:
- Vaccination needs
- Payment Options/Plans
- Airline Itinerary
- What to pack for the mission
- Fundraising Guidance
- Deadlines for paperwork and payments
- Proper travel documentation (i.e. passport, visa if required)
- Pre-departure meeting of fellow teammates
Missions cost roughly $2,000 per participant plus the cost of airfare. The team members fly from Atlanta, Georgia and volunteers are highly encouraged to leave with the group. Included in the total cost are:
- Lodging (hotel and private home accommodations)
- Ground Transportation (to NWP activities and mission sites)
- 2 Celebratory Dinners
- 3 Excursions (Safari, Lion Park, City Tour, and/or Maropeng/Sterkfontein Caves)
- Travel Consultant
- Access to Members Portal
- Scheduled Conference Calls
- Security while in South Africa
- Nurses with Purpose Welcome Kit
- Nurses with Purpose T-Shirt
Not included in cost:
- All flights (domestic and international)
- Travel Insurance (optional but encouraged)
- Passport and visa related costs
- Navy Blue Scrubs (the team all wears this during mission days)
- Activities and transportation not related to NWP
All missions for 2018 are currently full but Nurses with Purpose does have openings for their 2019 missions in March and October.
To apply visit here. There is a one-time non-refundable application fee of $75.
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