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Staff bring a world of knowledge and understanding back to The Ottawa Hospital

Staff bring a world of knowledge and understanding back to The Ottawa Hospital

“It takes so little on our part to help someone so greatly,” said RN Jennifer Taylor, who has volunteered her nursing skills abroad in Tanzania, as well as Uganda and Madagascar.

A 12-year-old girl attacked by a tiger. Patients arriving by cow. Cleaning wounds with scarce bottled water. Racing to the airport amidst a riot. Sidearms worn in the operating room. The heart-wrenching parental smiles upon realizing their child will be helped.

Staff members at The Ottawa Hospital return with vivid memories about working abroad, but what else have they learned while offering health care on remote islands and far-off mountains? What skills and values have they developed, while volunteering in states struck by war and disaster, that will help their work here in Ottawa?

(Read their full stories by clicking on their names.)

Respiratory Therapist Andria Darlington was reinvigorated by her work in Tanzania, helping improve maternal mortality rates.

“It reaffirmed my passion for helping those in need,” said Darlington. “I returned feeling connected to the world around me, motivated by a hope to make a difference, and positive that change can be possible even when it seems extremely challenging.”

“Working in Haiti has made me appreciate and understand another culture and another value system, plus learn a new language,” said Speech Language Pathologist Karen Mallet. “This helps me in my role at The Ottawa Hospital by being cognizant of others’ cultures, beliefs, thoughts, values and language. I think it makes me a better clinician.”

JE Oct 28 Monica Robichaud #3 Haiti
Monica Robichaud in Haiti

RN Bonni MacGregor, who helped provide medical clinics in Cambodia, has also become more sensitive to different cultures.

“It is a benefit to the hospital having staff who may have a better understanding of the many walks of life we interact with,” said MacGregor.

Dr. Roanne Segal returned from Rwanda with an attitude of acceptance and understanding. “For me, I think there’s a different acceptance of individual patient values,” she said. “They may not be mine but I accept them with a little less judgment. You start to recognize what’s important.”

Many staff members gained a new appreciation for Canada’s and The Ottawa Hospital’s standards of health care after working in less-privileged areas around the globe.

“You go to work at these hospitals, with limited supplies, sometimes limited clean bathrooms or running water, and fewer beds than we have, and you appreciate what you have at home,” said RN Donna Crowe, who has volunteered on 30 missions in 10 countries. “We all have health care. They do not.”

“Patient access, patient safety, patient experience – these are phrases that we, at the hospital, are very familiar with and often take for granted,” explained Dr. Wylam Faught, an obstetrician and gynecologist who has made annual trips to Tanzania since 2009 to teach skills, develop local programs and help build capacity. “But when you see the gaps in a low-resource country such as Tanzania, it makes us appreciate Canada and Canadian health care that much more.”

Robert Johnston sidearm
Dr. Robert Johnston (right) in Afghanistan

“I have learned how to improvise when resources are lacking,” said Dr. Robert Johnston, an anesthesiologist who also works for the Canadian Armed Forces, providing trauma care to Canadian and partner nations’ military operations.

“It’s good to keep things in perspective,” said Occupational Therapist Monica Robichaud, who volunteered in Haiti and Nepal. “I am compassionate to the clients I serve and have a renewed appreciation for our system’s resources.”

“I try to make therapy more about my clients and really focus on what will make a difference in their lives,” said Occupational Therapist Nadia Pereira, who also volunteered in Haiti. “I try to be more practical and make sure that my recommendations fit the reality of their world.”

Above all, hospital staff members truly realize the importance of compassion.

“It reminds me of why I love being a nurse and how much I enjoy caring for people in vulnerable and trying situations in their life,” said RN Jennifer Taylor, who has worked in Tanzania, Uganda and Madagascar. “Ultimately this makes me more compassionate for the patients and families that I care for here at home.”


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