Last week I mentioned that this week we would be discussing how to get around while on a travel assignment. However, I wanted to postpone that discussion for another week due to a question that I received a few days ago in regard to Haiti. A traveler contacted and asked if I knew of any way they could help with the situation in Haiti. My response was, “Sure, wanna go?”
I always encourage travelers to be signed up with more than one travel nursing company (I, myself, am signed up with about a half dozen). If you are in the same boat as me, you have probably received at least one email offering to send you to Haiti to help with the aid.
I have never been in the fortunate position of being able to go to a disaster zone (I was always on a travel assignment at the time), but given the chance, I would jump at the opportunity.
Most of us in the profession are by nature, “healers and helpers”. We derive satisfaction from being able to help others, but often realize early on that ours is mostly a thankless profession. But, when I have spoken with other nurses who have responded to natural disaster zones, they say it can be a very rewarding experience. However, despite the great opportunity to help your fellow man, you must know exactly what’s in store for you; they don’t call it a “disaster zone” for nothing.
Often, the facilities and the medical care will be nowhere near what you are accustomed. You might find yourself working in a tent or some other make-shift medical care station. You could also find yourself right in the thick of things and be delivering your medical care at the roadside using medical supplies fetched from the back of a truck. The living conditions may be primitive and even things we take for granted, such as running water, may not be available. It can be exhaustive work, both physically and mentally. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but if you get the feeling you might not be able to handle it, you might be right.
I have been told that many of the agencies that respond to disaster zones understand when the workers become overwhelmed or are not able to deal with the situation and need to return home. Obviously, they would prefer that those coming to help have done some soul searching beforehand, and once again, if you think it might be over your head, it might very well be. But, if you do need to leave, they will understand.
You will need strong skills in things such as dressing changes, starting IV’s, and basic medical care. However, this also means that you don’t need to be an ICU or an ER nurse to lend a helping hand. Nearly anyone with basic medical training can be utilized.
Most companies like you to make an initial commitment (the company that contacted me regarding Haiti asked for two weeks) and would probably welcome any extensions beyond that time if needed. The pay will vary, but the initial rate I was contacted with for Haiti would be $40 an hour with $60 an hour for overtime. You must also figure that you would pretty much be working the entire time you were not sleeping (this isn’t a travel assignment where you sight-see on your time off). But, that also means lots of overtime hours and that you could make a lot of money in a short time.
The costs you would be responsible for, for things such as travel, passports, immunizations, etc., would vary depending on the organization with whom you are associated. If you have an interest in helping with the situation in Haiti, contact your travel company to see if they are organizing any aid efforts. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info