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How Working for a Sight Saving Organization Changed My View

When I became a nurse, I considered the lives I could change and the good I could do by caring for others. What I didn’t consider was the possibility of one day having to quickly adapt as the world grappled with a global pandemic impacting all areas of healthcare. This past year, whether on the front lines or behind the scenes, nurses have had to lead the way in protecting the public’s health on a global scale.

Working with Orbis International, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting avoidable blindness, the pandemic was particularly noticeable. Many of our in-person sight-saving programs to countries around the world were paused, including those on our Flying Eye Hospital – a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a plane that our organization uses to train eye care professionals in areas with the greatest need. But with 90% of vision loss around the world being completely avoidable, we knew just how critical it was to adjust and innovate so we could continue our work.

My story starts much earlier. When I was in my twenties, I was a patient in a hospital. While I was recovering, I was inspired deeply by the nurses who cared for me and decided to undergo a total life shift. I left the hospital and changed my profession from a legal secretary to pursue my new passion as a nurse. After completing my general training and sub-specialty training in eye care, I joined the team at Orbis where I now oversee the team of nurses on our Flying Eye Hospital. My role includes ensuring that all staff nurses are educated on the latest protocols on infection control and emergency preparedness in patient care. In turn, we make sure ophthalmic nurses around the world build these skills – which are even more top of mind during the pandemic – to provide the highest quality care in their communities.

With the world still largely locked down, we had to make the difficult decision as an organization to continue to pause our efforts on the Flying Eye Hospital last year. But rather than see this as a challenge, I saw it as an opportunity. Diving even deeper into teaching, I worked alongside my colleagues to pivot from our in-person training to create and implement our curricula virtually – offering both live and self-paced learning while simultaneously fostering a sense of community on a global scale.

A nurse’s job already requires focus and problem-solving skills and with a global pandemic, it is easy to become demoralized especially when learning through a virtual environment. Now more than ever, as mentors, it has become our responsibility to ensure our participants feel secure and keep their morale high to guarantee everyone’s training is complete.

In our line of work, we are confronted with constant barriers, but we work as a team to solve them. I have found that training during the pandemic has become my most significant motivator. The pandemic has pushed us to think of innovative ways to guarantee that our training participants stay inspired and receive the quality training they deserve – and along the way, we have all forged lifelong bonds, even from afar. These new techniques and coping strategies will continue to inform how I support teams globally, even after the pandemic eases.

It has been a challenging year, but it has also been full of deeply rewarding experiences that have allowed me to grow as a mentor and reflect on why I first became passionate about this profession. I have become more motivated to enhance our curricula to serve our nurses better, whether that be by raising their spirits during these tumultuous times, guiding them through our training, or thinking about ways to use a blend of virtual and in-person learning in the future. Together, we have found resilience in the face of adversity and comfort in our close-knit team of fellow nurses, who feel like a family.

Photo submitted by contributor.