December 02, 2009 | | Comments 0
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More nurses are finding ways to make a difference outside the hospital

Nurses are always trying to find ways to do more for the profession that they love. In most cases where nurses want to do more, volunteering or organizing charity events and fundraisers are the most common ways to help other facilities and those patients in need. Three nurses—each with more than three decades of experience—have found their own way to make a difference in the world by volunteering their time and efforts to bettering healthcare and patients’ lives.

Trisha Pearce, a psychiatric nurse, founded the Soldiers Project Northwest in 2007 because she saw first hand what the war could do to returning soldiers when her brothers returned from Vietnam and the Gulf War. The Project reaches out to veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with active-duty personnel and military families. It provides free, confidential, therapeutic counseling and aims to educate communities on the psychological effects of the war. Volunteers also benefit from the project, and are able to receive training to better aid these soldiers and their families.

Mary McMahon, after returning home from her first medical mission trip to the Amazon in South America, founded the nonprofit organization, Nurses for the Nations. The organization is gearing up for an 11-day trip to Liberia in January, where nurses will test for malaria, provide mosquito nets, and teach sanitation and proper use of the nets in six remote villages.

The philosophy of Nurses for Nations is to focus on one small region of the world at a time, which McMahon believes can inspire long-term change. McMahon plans to turn the organization’s focus on another medically desperate part of the world during the next three to five years.

Following McMahon’s lead, Elizabeth McLellan started her own nonprofit organization because she could no longer handle seeing perfectly good medical supplies go to waste. McLellan runs the organization out of her own home in Portland, ME, and sends the unwanted inventory she collects from hospitals to clinics in developing countries. Sterile syringes, gloves, and alcohol swabs are just a few of the supplies that fill several rooms in her house.

With the help of volunteers, McLellan has already collected 10,000 pounds of unused medical supplies from just a handful of hospitals, and hopes to convince more hospitals to get on board with her organization and have the number grow even more.


Do you encourage nurses to volunteer around the community for organizations? As the holidays approach, what are some ways your facility is giving back?

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Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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