A Travel Nurse Volunteer in Cambodia: Highlights of her Experience

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

October 14, 2014



A Travel Nurse Volunteer in Cambodia

The following was contributed by Kaitlin, a Travel Nurse volunteer in Cambodia. She recently completed a volunteer medical trip to Cambodia and shares some highlights of her experience below.  If you have a volunteer trip that you would like to share, please send us an email!

About Kaitlin

“I’m from St. Petersburg, Florida and have been working as an ICU nurse for a number of years. I recently took up travel nursing this year to see more the country and schedule time off to volunteer abroad. I’m currently residing in Scottsdale, Arizona.”– Kaitlin Shanklin RN, BSN, CCRN

We’ve all experienced burnout in the nursing field, even if we switch specialties and take a vacation. For me, nursing in the states started becoming very corporate, and I was taking care of patients and families who were self-entitled and always right, leaving me with little autonomy and emotionally exhausted.I love nursing. I love the opportunities that nursing has given me. I love the patient care. I love learning about someone else’s life. I love watching my critical patients come back 1 year later to thank me. Nursing is a beautiful career, and I couldn’t picture myself doing much of anything else. But after five years at the bedside, I decided to take my nursing abroad. I decided to be a travel nurse volunteer. International Medical Relief is an organization that I stumbled upon while looking to vacation in Thailand. I decided to base my vacation in Southeast Asia and end it with a medical mission to Cambodia. I put down my deposit and gathered donations for my big trip. A year later, in September 2014, I found myself traveling throughout Thailand and Cambodia with a friend for 2 weeks, and then I was solo for about a week while I waited to meet up with everyone from the mission.

Who is International Medical Relief?

International Medical Relief partners up with the Song Saa Foundation, a part of Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia. The Song Saa Foundation assists several villages of the Koh Rong Islands with environmental restoration and education. International Medical Relief is one of the first medical teams to come to these islands to assist these villages with medical care. Each day we would bring around 15 suitcases packed full of medical supplies to a boat & ride to a village, unpack, and start our day. International Medical Relief is there to provide medicine and care and educate the population on oral health care, hand washing & women’s health, a focus for this current mission. Public health education is one of the most important things International Medical Relief brings to the table. The most common problems encountered as volunteers on these islands consisted of arthritic type pain, malnutrition, oral decay, high blood pressure, and dehydration. We saw a handful of HIV positive adults and children, scabies, fungal rashes, bacterial vaginitis, and burns. 

Promoting Education

The people that come to the clinic to seek a check-up all left with a multivitamin or something as simple as Ibuprofen or Tylenol, and you know what? They were so incredibly thankful. We taught the children how to wash their hands properly, drink more water, and brush their teeth. We taught women about safe sex and provided condoms. 

Any serious issues encountered went to our wonderful doctor. It was hot, and I was sweaty, but we are all so busy assisting the village people that it’s amazing how quickly you don’t care anymore and how the entire experience changes you. The children are adorable, the adults are thankful & I am in awe at their impact on these people’s lives.

This trip changed me.

It made me less materialistic & brought back my empathy as a burnt-out nurse. It had changed my course of life to changing my masters from anesthesia to public health/ NP with international studies included. But not until I go back to Cambodia and make a bigger difference in April.
 Just remember what Brad Pitt said;

“Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right for life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold.”

Until next time…

If you are interested in more travel Nurse volunteer stories, please check out the recent Travel Nurse in Liberia series.  Again, if you would like to share your volunteer experiences, please send us an email!

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