Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

Saturday, June 30, 2012


It all started 6 years ago with the idea of helping nurses take their first step into the humanitarian world.  Now One Nurse At A Time has grown into an organization which has funded 42 volunteer nursing scholarships and, as evidenced by emails, has helped countless nurses through our website.  One Nurse has given me the opportunity to serve my fellow nursing colleagues and to encourage and be encouraged by those nurses who see our profession as a ministry.  
This has been an exciting and rewarding ride, but now it is time for me to say goodbye. My life has changed drastically over the past 6 years.  My 3 children, ages 9, 6, and 11 months, need me present in their lives and I love being their mom.  I’m looking forward to having the time to spend with my kids and my husband.I will always support the core mission of ONAAT and will be cheering from the sidelines.   I look forward to seeing what the future holds for One Nurse At A Time and feel privileged to have been a part of such a wonderful organization.

Denise Walsh, RN, MSN said it best, “To look into the eyes of the desperately poor, and see their hope in your ability to care, is what it means to be a nurse.  You are the scientist, you are the caregiver, you are the nurse. I implore you to always have eyes that will see the injustices and the inequities in the world. And to know that your eyes are the eyes that the patient will always remember.”

Kindest Regards,
Staci Kelley, RN, BSN

One Nurse At A Time

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"We All Love, We All Struggle...We are All the Same"

Allsion Godchaux, RN, FNP traveled with Healing the Children to Bahia de la Caraquez, Ecuador April 20 - 27, 2012.  In total, they treated 70 patients, mostly children, and one emergent case of a 51 year-old homeless man.  The group of 16 medical personnel performed cleft lip and cleft palate repairs; ear reconstructions; tonsillectomies and adenectomies; hernia repairs, scar revisions and many other necessary surgeries. Allison's role was to be the 'glue' within the group. “As a family nurse practitioner I have medical education, training and experience, I have a background in nursing, and I speak Spanish.  I was meant to flow between operating rooms, the recovery room, patient and family waiting areas, the upstairs floor where we occasionally needed to admit patients, and interact as a go-between between the volunteers, hospital staff, the health department and social services organization.”

Allison enjoyed seeing the faces of the mother and fathers as their kids came out of the recovery room the most.  “The joy of their children being returned to them from surgery was beautiful to behold, as well as their gratitude to us for the services we provided.  We go into nursing to help people.  It is reaffirming to provide health services to others, and to be fully and honestly appreciated for what we do.  The joy we received could even be from acts as simple as calming a scared child before surgery, or educating the parents afterwards about how to care for their child post-op.  It was so enlightening and heart warming how they took everything we said, to heart.  I have not one doubt in my mind that those children are not currently receiving every care possible from their families during their recovery.”

Allison reflects, “It was reaffirmed for me that people are people wherever they are, whatever language they speak.  They love each other, their children, and will do what they can for them.  They have similar concerns that we have for our children.  We are all parents, we all love, we all struggle, and in that regard, we are all the same.”

One of them most memorable moments Allison recalls is a “51 year old male emergent patient that came in through the emergency room.  The general surgeon assessed him and determined that he would do the surgery the next day.  One local nurse said they would admit him that night, so he could be cleaned, prepped for surgery.  The second nurse said he could not be admitted because he did not have family.  I asked what the signficance was, of not having family.  I was told that there is not enough nursing staff to provide this care, that it is the role of the family to provide it.  As a homeless person, he did not have the family.  Luckily, we had an extra nurse who provided all the care for him that they typically expect the family to do, or he might not have had the surgery, which he desperately needed.  He was a humble man.  Although we helped the children through our work, it is easier to take care of the kids, and not so much a homeless man.  We definently changed his life.  I am grateful that we are allowed latitude to perform these exceptions.”

“My work hours had been reduced at my job, and it was doubtful to me whether or not I could afford  this trip or even if I should take this trip.  One Nurse at a Time (ONAAT) provided me with enough financial support that I felt I could justify my spending the remainder amount of money required to be able to go.  It was also a validation to me, that ONAAT felt it important enough for me to go, that they were willing to help fund the trip.”

Allison Godchaux is a family nurse practitioner, in Kansas, at la Clinica Medica, and LifeWorks Wellness Center.  She received her Master’s of Nursing degree at the University of Kansas Medical Center,  Bachelor’s of Nursing degree at California State University, Sacramento.   She enjoys her family, outdoor activities, and bicycling.   Every year she rides her bicycle 150-180 miles, to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Allison has been part of a project vaccinating cats and dogs against rabies in Ecuador, with Los Amigos de las Americas;  worked in an orphanage in Mexico,  with Los Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos;  and worked in Ecuador, with Healing the Children, as a recovery room nurse for children receiving cleft lip and cleft palate repair.  
Allison has served in the United States Naval Reserve for 13 years as a Hospital Corpsman, with the Fleet Marine Force, and Naval Cargo Battalions.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Perfect Moments Don't Come in Perfect Packages"

There are so many words swirling around in my head when I try to describe my experience as a mission nurse. Certainly the words sweltering, sticky, dirty, sweaty and exhausting cover the physical part, but the physical is the most superficial aspect of the experience of mission nursing. Mind and spirit are the deeper aspects, and this is where I find the most authentic words to describe the experience.

How do I describe the sheer joy I felt holding the hand of a child on a rickety ferry blasting Bollywood music on our way to provide typhoid and malaria testing on a remote island? Or the overwhelming welcome we received in each of the villages we visited with all the villagers gathered to sing for us? Perfect moments don’t come in perfect packages and they aren’t always received with perfect grace. I found myself on the verge of tears at the oddest moments most of the week. The interaction with the villagers we met brought me back to that primal place I first visited when I decided to become a nurse 21 years ago. For me, the decision to become a nurse was divinely inspired, a response to a harrowing 2 years of my little daughter’s treatment for leukemia. Thus, nursing has always been my ministry. It’s when I’m able to be most in the moment and most connected to my reason for existing on this planet.

Mission nursing is not easy! The heat in India in May is annihilating. Simple things like putting on gloves become a challenge when your hands are dripping sweat. (Thankfully a team member brought a little container of baby powder.) There are no toilets in the jungle, a fact which was painfully brought home to me the day I absolutely had to go and was directed to a corner where 2 roosters were tied up. I gave up my vegetarian ways for the rest of the trip and ate all the chicken that was served to me.

You become concretely aware of what you don’t have: plastic bags for medical waste, sharps containers (we had 2, which filled up the first day and we ended up using empty water bottles), dressing supplies. We had to tote all of our medical waste back with us in our backpacks.

The cultural differences are both charming and amusing. I cringe when I say amusing, because I know I was probably the source of a lot of Indian laughter as I bumbled along. I imagine the look on my face was pretty funny the first time I was presented with a huge plate of hot rice and curry and realized that I was expected to eat it with my hands. Or when the Indian ladies poured buckets of water over my feet after the encounter with the roosters in the open air loo. And Indians have this head wagging thing that they do, which means “yes”, “I approve”, “hello” or all of the above.

The deepest feelings I have about my mission experience actually involve the Indian head wag. As the villages lined up for testing, I made a point of holding each hand, looking into their eyes and smiling. When I got the smile and head wag in return I found my heart filling up and realized that I was once again experiencing the essence of why I became a nurse. It’s so easy to lose this connection with our patients in our rushed and impersonal culture. How wonderful to find it again in a place where communication transcends the boundaries of language and culture to come straight from the heart.

-Liza Leukhardt, RN
Nurses for the Nations, Andra Pradesh, India, May 14-24, 2012

Liza Leukhardt decided to become a nurse 20 years ago after caring for her three year old daughter during two years of chemotherapy for childhood leukemia. Having already worked as a newspaper reporter, elementary school teacher and theater costumer, Liza views nursing more as a ministry than a career. For the past twenty years she has been a hospice nurse. Her ability to work with the dying is a gift she discovered during her daughter’s illness. Today her daughter is a robust and healthy 29 year old woman with an exceptional empathy for others in need. Liza currently works as a weekend Baylor nurse for a local home care agency while pursuing a master’s in nursing at the University of Hartford. She is a contributing writer to and her story may be found in the anthology “Nurses on the Run” edited by Karen Buley.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guatemala Bound

Mary Novakoski, RN will be traveling with Cascade Medical Team and HELPS International to Solola, Guatemala June 16 - 27.   She will be part of a a team of medical professionals, support staff, and construction team providing free medical care to the Mayan people of the highlands.  On this medical mission general surgery, gynecological procedures, eye, and dental care will be provided at no cost to the Mayan people of Guatemala. Mary states, "This trip gives me the opportunity to give back to the underserved population and in return gain an invaluable experience and knowledge."

Mary Novakoski is a registered nurse who received her Associates of Applied Science from Portland Community College. Currently, she works at Hooper Detoxification and Stabilization Center in Portland, Oregon providing culturally competent care to the underserved population of the Portland- Metro area and has received several recognitions for her contributions throughout her employment as a RN. Additionally, Mary works at Kaiser Permanente in Clackamas, Oregon working in addiction medicine/mental health.  In her free time Mary takes continuing education courses, currently enrolled in a Medical Spanish for Medical Professionals to prepare for her medical mission to Guatemala.

Mary attributes her strong work ethic and compassion to help others to her grandparents who were farmers in Door County, Wisconsin. They instilled strong values which have carried over into raising her daughter as a single parent. Mary hopes to contribute her skills/knowledge gained from nursing and from her grandparents to the Mayan Indians in Guatemala and in return gain invaluable lifetime experience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Will Always Go Back to Haiti, a Piece of My Heart is There

“This was my fourth trip to Haiti, and it is always such a culture shock when I come home. When you first get there, it all seems so different, but by about the third day it just becomes your reality. Before you know it, it's almost time to go home and that is so bittersweet. I am usually so ready to go home and see my family, but so sad about leaving Haiti. It's kind of like there are two of me..the me who is wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister and the me who goes to Haiti.

I was part of a really great group of people, most of whom I had not met before. We had 2 surgeons, a pediatrician, 2 family practice doctors, 4 nurses and two non medical folks. We went to Hopital Sacre Coeur in Milot, which is run by the Crudem organization. It is the main hospital for that area, and the main focus of Crudem is to help transition the hospital to eventually be all Haitian run, but improve standards of care and services that can be offered. It was a difficult week in many ways. We are supposed to work with the Haitian staff, being careful not to step on any toes or try to take over, but to help improve their knowledge and abilities. Very difficult, almost impossible sometimes. Many were not receptive, some were resentful, and there is such a cultural and language barrier. I ended up doing mostly wound care, which is something the nurses were happy to let us do for them. There seem to be many severe burns, so there were many complex and painful dressings to be done. That was quite a challenge, too, because the routine is to do dressing changes every 2 days, nothing like what we do at home. We had to just do what we were asked. The patients were all really glad to have us care for them, many were very particular about technique. Several patients were used to wounds packed with honey soaked gauze, not normal saline as we would use at home. They were also very particular about how much gauze was used, and how leg/foot wounds were wrapped. That part was actually very rewarding. I had one patient whose leg wound was very extensive and painful, requiring much soaking just to remove the old bandages. He would gesture and talk very rapidly, frowning the whole time, so I was sure he was very unhappy with me. When I was finally able to get a translator to work with me, it turned out he was so happy with my work, said his wound felt so much better after I was finished and he was finally able to sleep. I would never have guessed that from the way he was acting.There is your cultural difference again.
 There was one instance in which a tiny baby died, as we were holding her actually, She had been very ill and was not expected to survive. Several of us took turns holding her so she wouldn't die alone, because we weren't sure where her mama was. When she died, we could hear her mama outside shrieking and screaming, but she never came inside. We just didn't understand, but in the Haitian culture that's not what they do. Apparently they don't want to see the  person who has died, but go through very loud public mourning. Another cultural difference to learn. I had seen that on other trips, but never really figured it out until then.

 There was a very sick girl I cared for as an ICU patient one of the days. She had previously had an appendectomy, but had apparently developed an abscess and was getting sicker every day. Our surgeons operated on her along with her Haitian surgeon, and we cared for her afterwards. We were all really pessimistic about her chances for recovery, but she was better before we left, and our team was recently able to find out that she has been recovering well.

 One afternoon a group of us went to visit what we were told was an orphanage, but was actually a children’s home run by a church based group from the US. Their goal is to promote prenatal nutrition and try to keep babies with their families. They also facilitate adoptions of children who are truly orphans. It was an amazing place, and very inspiring. Definitely a high point of the trip. It is called Children of the Promise.

  Our last day we thought we were all done, but late in the afternoon there was a car accident with multiple injuries and we all went back to work to triage patients. That was actually one of the more fulfilling parts of the week for me, because it was just hands on care, doing what needed to be done.

  Overall, it was a good week. It is always a mixed bag for me. I will always go back to Haiti, a piece of my heart  is there. I am very grateful to One Nurse at a Time for the financial contribution, and also for the positive  reinforcement you gave me. I had so many supportive and encouraging emails from you all, and it really meant a lot to me.”

-Jeanie Fry, RN

Jeanie Fry has been a registered nurse for 28 years, working at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St Louis, Missouri. She is a 1984 diploma graduate of The Jewish Hospital of St Louis School of Nursing. She is married with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. Jeanie has always had an interest in mission work, but never had the opportunity to pursue it. When the 2010 earthquake struck in Haiti, she immediately began trying to find a way to go there to help. Jeanie worked with Project Medishare for Haiti at a tent field hospital at the airport in Port Au Prince March 2010 and then again in June 2010. She returned in February 2011 for a week at Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port Au Prince, which is run by Project Medishare. In Jeanie's own words, "I feel committed to Haiti for the long haul now".  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Congratulations Sue Averill, Nurse Week Nursing Excellence Award Nominee!

Congratulations is in order to Sue Averill, RN!  She has been nominated by a colleague and was notified that she is a finalist in the Nursing Excellence Awards 2012 in the category of Volunteerism & Service.  As a finalist, she has been invited to the Nursing Excellence Awards Gala which will be held at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Arizona on Friday, August 10,2012!  

An excerpt from Sue's nomination form, "On her many missions, Sue learned "up close and personal" how others live and how they provide health care, however meager.  She adapted her practice to fit within the culture and resources available to her.  More than once the TV character Macgyver was an inspiration!  Teaching and sharing has been key.  Her favorite story is helping a well-meaning group of non-medical staff in Darfur transform from not knowing how to feel a pulse to a team capable of emergency blood transfusions and even minor surgeries.  Showing A-B-O blood typing on the back of a metal emesis basis was the aha! moment.
Tens of thousands of under served across the world have received medical services from One Nurse's support of the "boots on the ground" nurses who have received assistance on their journeys.  Hundreds of nurses have been directly helped and thousands have been inspired to serve locally, nationally and internationally."

Congratulations Sue! We will be rooting for you!

To read more information about Sue visit our website:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

NURSE NEEDED for July Guatemala Trip!

Guatemala Village Health is looking for a nurse who would like to travel with them in July 27 - August 10, 2012.  Nurses do not need to have to have any international experience.  An RN/LPN who has some primary care experience and/or administrative experience would be great.  Flexibility is key!

Read more about Guatemala Village Health here:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Empowering Vietnamese Nurses

Staci Swan, RN just returned from Vietnam after traveling with the organization Good Samaritan Medical Dental Ministry.  The organization as a whole does mission work in rural Vietnam, but this particular aspect of their mission is to promote emergency medicine in Vietnam and helping the medical community develop this as a true specialty. Staci taught a pediatric emergency module, specifically addressing common emergencies and pediatric trauma.  She also traveled with her husband Rob who is an ER nurse.  You can read about his experience here.

In Staci's own words:  "Having just turned 28 I have traveled throughout the US and Canada, but had never gone what I would call truly international. Boy, this was a great place to start! My husband and I, the healthcare duo that we are, were welcomed so warmly to Vietnam by such grateful nurses. Though I feel very comfortable as a pediatric ER nurse in the US, I was very nervous about teaching the subject. As the interpreter and I lectured on pediatric emergencies, the passion and intrigue radiated from the class so much that it was nearly impossible to adhere to our time limit. I had to propose completely new and additional lectures just to cover all the incredible questions they asked.  We were empowering Vietnamese nurses- discussing the necessity for sharp observations in the pediatric population and offering avenues for nurses to be more autonomous and anticipatory with patient care.  It was clear by their spoken and unspoken responses that our group had much to offer Vietnam healthcare and their future in emergency medicine and were already making a noticeable impact."

"The few hours a day when we weren't teaching I roamed the streets wide-eyed, and one thing that put a smile on my face was walking through the street markets and having Vietnamese children gather around me or pass by practicing their English skills, "Hi" or "Hello!", while I in turn practiced my poor Vietnamese, “Xin Chao!” Visiting the local orphanage was also a valuable experience to us. These well cared for children performed a fashion and dance show for us so happily and the older ones made us dinner at the restaurant owned by the orphanage. When the kids reach the appropriate age, they learn the responsibility of the workplace by cooking and serving at their restaurant which had fabulously delicious food. We felt so healthy after eating meals in Vietnam, a welcome change from the remorse after a heavy American meal."
"I look forward to 29 and building on the foundation we have set for international emergency medicine in Vietnam and elsewhere. Kids rock!"

Staci Swan is a certified pediatric emergency nurse born and raised in the Cajun Heartland, but now rugged Fairbanks, Alaska is her home. It’s been almost six years since she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Louisiana State University and subsequently has worked in emergency departments in five states. She is currently employed at Yale-New Haven Hospital in the pediatric emergency department while her husband, Rob, is pursuing his graduate degree in nursing at Yale University. In addition to volunteering in Vietnam with One Nurse at a Time, they are both are committed to volunteering with the Alaska Summer Research Academy. She has also tutored for Goodwill Industries and volunteered at a shelter in New Orleans, LA, post Hurricane Katrina. She especially loves pediatric medicine and soon plans to pursue an advanced degree as a pediatric nurse practitioner, while continuing my volunteer efforts locally and internationally.