Empowering and Transforming Communities through Partnerships and Medical Education: International Nurses Day 2019

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There are many ways to be a leader in healthcare. Nurses — whether they work on the front lines, manage others or create policies — are in a unique position to play multiple roles and create positive changes in the health of their patients. Nurses are also a key link between the community and the healthcare system: In many settings, they may be the only care providers available and are the best positioned to educate and empower others.

In honor of International Nurses Day, we share the story of CHOP nurse practitioner Melissa (“Missy”) Duran, MSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, who exemplifies how nurses have “A Voice to Lead” at home and abroad.

Inspired to lead

Missy was first inspired to pursue a career in nursing while serving for 3½ years in the Peace Corps in Honduras after completing her undergraduate studies. Though her plan before going into the Peace Corps was to study medicine, she was inspired by how nurses in Honduras exhibited immense passion for and influence in their communities.

“They taught me to see a person as an individual and as a whole,” Missy remembers. “They also emphasized treating each person respectfully and with dignity, and they worked tirelessly to ensure that each person they encountered received the safest and best care. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to be just like them.”

Missy changed her focus and went on to study nursing at Johns Hopkins University. Throughout her studies, she not only learned how to care for her patients, but also how to be an advocate for patients in a variety of situations. She stayed involved in global health work in Peru and knew that her studies and experiences would help her achieve her dream of bringing quality care to more people around the world.

Making connections that help patients

Now the lead surgical nurse practitioner in CHOP’s Harriet and Ronald Lassin Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU), Missy helps create meaningful partnerships to help communities address gaps in access to healthcare that ultimately prevents disease. This emphasis on connections, she says, “has allowed me to deliver safe, effective, quality, evidence-based care across many different settings, from the clinic to the operating room to the intensive care unit. It has taught me to be an inspiring and dynamic leader in improving patient safety and outcomes, both at CHOP and in global settings.”

Missy remains active in global health work. Since graduating from nursing school, she has volunteered in Peru and Jamaica and recently worked in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic through the CHOP Global Health Allies Program. She also plays a critical role on the planning committee for CHOP’s annual Global Health conference and speaks at conferences in the United States and throughout Latin America. 

Many of Missy’s activities involve using medical education to transform how healthcare is practiced. Because nurses are often patients’ first point of contact with the health system, they lead the way in helping patients and healthcare professionals learn key health information. “Education is perhaps the single biggest factor that one can use to effect positive change,” Missy notes. “By providing the necessary tools, not only do you gain sufficient knowledge, you also gain the ability to teach and help others. There is a cascade effect that subsequently leads to positive change.”

Meeting the needs of the local community

Whether nursing work is happening in Philadelphia or thousands of miles away, Missy notes that it must meet local- and community-specific needs and focus on long-term outcomes. “Establishing a mutually beneficial partnership is paramount in helping to improve a community’s access to quality healthcare services,” she says.

Nurses’ work doesn’t always bring instant gratification, as the results of their efforts to connect communities to care and education may not be visible for years. However, it is entirely worth it for Missy, who is focused on the bigger picture of her work. “My role as a nurse,” she reflects, “has provided me with a voice to lead change on many different levels: locally, nationally and globally.” Working tirelessly as part of an international, interconnected network of committed providers, Missy is energized by how much has already been accomplished — and how much potential there is to make additional changes in the years ahead.

This International Nurses Day, we celebrate all of the nurses, like Missy, who are leading the way in partnerships to improve health and make care accessible to all. Chances are, you know nurses who are using their voices to lead in inspiring ways, and we encourage you to thank them for their efforts. Thanks to their work in communities far and wide, more people are healthier and are empowered to take care of themselves, their families and their communities.

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