I first came across my college FIMRC chapter during my freshman year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (I-L- L!). It must have been an IB 150 or CHEM 102 lecture where a FIMRC representative gave a plug about medical mission trips to beautiful, far-away countries. Always having had an interest in travel and having been exposed to way too many commercials showing images of severely malnourished children while asking for donations, I conjured up a fantasy of how I would go out into the world, find those that needed the most help, and get to work. FIMRC would be a great way to accomplish this. What I didn’t realize was that FIMRC would also smack me upside the head with the reality of what global health care should be, and make me realize that what I imagined barely scratched the surface. I think I always had a basic understanding that the best way to help someone is to have them help themselves, but if I didn’t, volunteering with FIMRC made it abundantly clear. From my first trip to Costa Rica, to my time in Uganda, and finally during my time in Nicaragua this year, each FIMRC clinic can attribute its success to its community members. There would be no improved health outcomes without the hard work that comes from the individuals there day in and day out, the true FIMRC stakeholders. I emphasize this because when I think of FIMRC, I think about how this sets it aside from any other global health opportunity. I could have found rewarding work that revealed valuable lessons about myself through plenty of other experiences, but not all of them would ensure that the population being served received the primary, sustainable benefits. That focus on how to fundamentally improve health in order to leave a lasting impact has stayed with me and is the mainstay of who I am as an RN. Ah, yes. Plot twist—I am not an occupational therapist.
I should mention that, for whatever reason, I had been coming across people naysaying nursing starting sometime in high school, and it continued throughout college. I swear comments about a thankless profession that demanded way too much followed me around like a bad dream or a Twilight Zone episode. So, I stayed away. During my first volunteer trip to Costa Rica and again in Uganda, I mentioned doubts to friends about occupational therapy. I wanted a career that would allow me to work closely and consistently with patients but with more medically based aspects. It was not until after I graduated from college, already in the process of applying to OT school, that a culmination of speaking to a friend who raved about starting a nursing career through a masters entry program and literally getting hit by a semi-truck opened my eyes to where I needed to be professionally. Family and friends claim that, despite being heavily medicated, I woke up after the accident talking about how there would be a change of career plans. I would be pursing a career in nursing.