Mission to Mongolia: Reflections from Team Member Jacqueline Erb
Reflections on the recent mission to Mongolia from Jacqueline Erb, emergency department nurse in New York City.
In her own words:
Mongolia isn’t a place I ever expected to find myself, even a few days before our trip. Due to some cancellations and the stars aligning, I was able to be a part of the mission to Mongolia with only two days notice beforehand. Helping people around the world is the reason I became a nurse, and I couldn’t have been more excited for this amazing opportunity.
Our first stop in Uliastai gave me insight into life there before we even unpacked our bags. Traveling from the capital of Ulaanbaatar to our first stop on the mission took nearly 24 hours of driving, much of it with no paved roadways. Imagining the people from the village having to make that journey for lab work or other specialized medical needs is unbelievable, especially when considering how easily accessible healthcare is in the United States. Working in a New York City emergency department, I know that there are EDs and urgent care facilities all around the city. That means for patients, a doctor is only a few blocks away. That was certainly not the case in these remote villages.
The hospital workers in Uliastai were incredibly welcoming and grateful. One of the best moments of the trip for me was unpacking the supplies and seeing how excited the doctors and nurses were to see what had been brought for them. Even with the language barrier, one of the nurses and I were able to communicate what medications and supplies were used for. No matter what it was, they were excited to have it. I was also able to visit the emergency department and present them with a new pulse oximeter. This is something I have around every corner at my job at home. Though I can sometimes feel discouraged that we don’t have the proper resources and space for the patients we see daily, This mission led me to develop a new appreciation for what we have available to us on my unit and within the hospital.
Having the opportunity to observe Dr. G. teaching in the operating room was very impressive. Our translator, Amaraa, was being pulled in several directions while Dr. G. was teaching the surgeons in Uliastai how to perform a thyroidectomy. With no translator for parts of the procedure, Dr. G. was able to communicate what tools he needed with simple hand gestures. The operation was successful and the surgeons will now be able to do this on their own after we have left.
We then were able to travel to Amaraa’s village where he grew up. After getting a chance to know Amaraa, it was great to be able to meet so many of his family and friends, and to have the opportunity to help them. I spent much of my time there working with Dr. Connie Le, a primary care physician. My role was to work with Connie in the assessment of the patients, perform available testing and provide a small supply of necessary medications based on the inventory we had brought with us to the village.
The patients there were so eager to be seen that they were literally pushing through the doorway and lining up outside the room. We had several patients bring us gifts to express their thanks. Being able to see these patients, check blood sugars, perform EKGs, and provide medications are all things that would have normally meant days of traveling for the people of this village. I truly feel that we were able to make a difference for all of the patients we saw.
The villages and healthcare facilities we had the opportunity to visit were eye-opening. I learned so much through this mission, but two main points stick out in my mind. First of all, I have confirmed that I would love to continue on this path of helping those in remote areas of the world. Seeing the needs that were met by our presence, and the appreciation people had for what was done, I can’t imagine not continuing to help in this capacity.
Second, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to experience what I have been hoping to do for as long as I can remember. This trip has inspired me to apply for graduate school, hoping to have a master’s degree in public health nursing. I would like to further educate myself so that I can be more useful in future missions, and hope to make a career out of helping others – both nationally and internationally.