When Passion Meets Profession

RN to BSN Alum Serves in Uganda

March 28, 2013
MidAmerica Nazarene Univesity RN to BSN Alum Anna Glendon Serves in Uganda

By Anna Glendon
With contributors Eva McDorman and Carol Best

MNU alumni are spending significant time in service across the globe. In many ways they are the hands and feet of Jesus to those they assist. Anna Glendon, a recent graduate of the RN to BSN degree completion program at MNU’s Liberty, Mo., site, took a one-month trip to Uganda with Project Helping Hands on a medical mission in January 2013. Originally a cardiac medical/surgical acute care nurse, a career change to clinical nursing in infectious diseases ignited a passion in Glendon for the care of individuals with HIV/AIDS. Glendon told MNU about her third-world experience in a recent interview.

Tell us about your mission in Uganda.

I spent one month in Uganda with a nonprofit organization that sends interdisciplinary medical teams to third-world countries. We stayed near one of the most densely populated slums in the world called Kawempe, in the capital city of Kampala. The team was comprised of six registered nurses, two physicians, one dentist and at least 125 Ugandan volunteers. We brought all of our supplies from the U.S. in our checked luggage; 100 pounds per person of medications, assistive devices, lab supplies and procedural instruments. While there we bought more supplies.

People line up early and wait hours to be seen. We treated 250-350 patients of varying complexity and gave out 700 prescriptions.

A major component of the mission was to educate locals and village healthcare providers with a goal of seeing them become self-sufficient.

What stood out to you during your experience in Uganda?

I treated an HIV baby who had lost both parents and was taken from a desperate situation. He is now in a stable and therapeutic orphanage with other HIV positive kids. My initial reaction was to question how so much bad could happen to an innocent baby. While I was focused on the negative, my Ugandan interpreter said, “That boy is blessed, he should be happy.”  He went on to explain, “His parents died, but he didn’t. His aunt neglected him, but he survived. He lives in an orphanage with other people like himself, so he won’t be lonely. God has a plan for him and this should make him happy.”  

In that moment, I was schooled in optimism by a baby who was raised in a Ugandan slum without two shillings to rub together. Therein lies the beauty of mission work, you are both the teacher and the student. Everyone can learn from one another.

How did this experience make you a better nurse?

Medical mission work is one of the most authentic forms of nursing. It gives one an opportunity to utilize one’s knowledge and “hands” to improve the physical and mental well-being of people who would otherwise not have access to medical care. To say I am a better person and nurse for having taken this journey may sound cliché but is also the truth. I received much more than I gave, and it was my privilege to have met so many fascinating people.

How has MNU prepared you for this mission and to be a servant leader?

What I learned in the RN to BSN degree completion program is that experience is fundamental to successful nursing but only when paired with self-exploration, evidence-based practice, servant leadership and lifelong learning. Experience is beneficial if the lessons learned are applied to nursing practice in a meaningful way. MNU gave me the tools to apply my nursing and life experience so I could identify the qualities and shortcomings in my practice making me better for my peers, employer and patients.

Glendon urges others to consider helping Project Helping Hands (PHH). The organization welcomes healthcare professionals from all disciplines, including students. PHH also has space available for non-medical personnel. Visit http://projecthelpinghands.org/, to learn more.

You may also view Ms. Glendon's photo gallery on Flikr.