By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Travel nursing lets Tracie Mohr, RN, savor the joy of helping bring new life into the world in some of America’s finest medical centers and the freedom to share her skills with third-world patients between assignments.
“Traveling is just an opportunity to see the world in a different way and to get out of your comfort zone and see how people live, especially when you travel internationally,” said Mohr, 33, who has worked for American Mobile Healthcare since 2000.
In August, Mohr will depart on her sixth mission trip. She heads to Guatemala for 10 days to staff an obstetrics clinic set up at a local hospital.
“It’s an incredible feeling of helping people and not getting paid, actually paying to go, and knowing you made their lives better,” Mohr said. “Most of them don’t have access to good medical care.”
On such medical missions, Mohr’s role varies—sometimes diagnosing and treating with a physician as backup, sometimes dispensing medication from the pharmacy.
“It’s very much a National Geographic experience,” Mohr said. “When we get there on the first day, there will be a huge line of people outside waiting. Some of them will literally have walked for hours or up to a day to get there. If you don’t see them the first day, they will stay and hope you see them the next day, or the next for as long as it takes.”
Care remains rudimentary. Mohr may teach a diabetic about diet to manage diabetes mellitus, because insulin supplies are not readily available. The missionaries can do very little to help with infertility or the most common OB ailment, a prolapsed uterus.
The Americans bring supplies and medications. Women with a yeast infection receive the drug needed to cure it.
The medical, vision and dental teams may see 400 patients each day. They also teach local doctors new methods, such as turning a breech baby so it can be born naturally.
“You feel good and tired,” Mohr said. “It’s exciting. You can see things you would never see in this country.”
Mohr continuously learns new skills. On one trip, she scrubbed and assisted in the operating room, a talent she put to use in a small U.S. hospital during the care of a woman needing an emergency C-section.
“You never know when something you learn on a mission will help you at work or vice versa,” Mohr said.
The host church typically will sponsor evening activities for the medical personnel. On this trip, Mohr expects to stay in a hotel, but on some missions, she has stayed with a family.
“When I get back, I will be grateful for toilet paper and toothpaste,” said Mohr. “You realize on a mission trip and giving of yourself how good we have it and how much God has blessed us.”
As a traveler, Mohr has helped women deliver babies from California to Philadelphia and points in between. She has practiced in numerous facilities.
“Having babies is having babies,” Mohr said. “The job is basically the same. It’s just a matter of learning the paperwork or computer system, and there are only so many systems out there. I didn’t find it difficult to start at a new place.”
Mohr finds it easier to make friends at some facilities than at others. Fellow nurses would entertain her, and only a few have acted as if they were unhappy to be working with a traveler.
On her days off, Mohr likes to take her dog for a walk, checking out local parks. She also picks up a travel guide and visits museums, aquariums, the beaches, historical sites and other local attractions. At each destination, she obtains a library card to provide her with a steady stream of reading materials and attends church and that faith community’s activities.
Washington, D.C., offered numerous opportunities to soak up history. She lived near a Metro station and easily explored the nation’s capital.
In addition, family and friends frequently came to stay with her, see the Grand Canyon and other interesting places.
“My friends saw me as a vacation waiting to happen,” Mohr said.
Recently married, Mohr plans to continue as a traveler, accepting assignments near Cincinnati, where the couple are making their home.
“I am glad I have the opportunities I do. I live a blessed life and am eternally grateful,” Mohr concluded. “I had parents who gave me roots, but they also gave me wings. They taught me to live life to the fullest, and I’m trying to do that.”
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