Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"We Are All Just Doctors and Nurses"

"I get to wear civilian clothes,” answers Carma Erickson-Hurt, RN, when she was asked, "What is the biggest difference between serving as nurse in the Navy and volunteering as a civilian with Project HOPE?"

“It really is a big deal after having to wear uniforms for four months straight in the past,” she adds.

Carma retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, and she is volunteering in leadership position, serving as HOPE’s Medical Director aboard the USS Iwo Jima and ashore in Nicaragua and Panama. Her military experience is proving beneficial. Carma not only knows what to expect and it is comfortable with her surroundings, she is also enjoying crossing paths with people she has worked with in the past. One of the nurses on board was under her command when she was in the Navy, now the nurse has advanced and is doing very well.

Carma first became familiar with Project HOPE when the organization, along with other NGOs and other branches of the military joined forces together to work in Tsunami relief in 2005. “It worked very well, and proved it can be done. We are all just doctors and nurses,” Carma says. When she was able to volunteer for relief work herself, she looked up the one volunteer organization she knew and applied.

Carma has found that no matter where she goes, the attitudes of the patients are all about the same. “They are very appreciative. They wait their turns patiently and really don’t question the “why” of where they have to go. They are all very grateful,” she says.

This is Carma’s second volunteer mission with HOPE. Earlier this year, she volunteered for Project HOPE onboard the USNS Comfort hospital ship in response to the earthquake in Haiti. She adds that working the Project HOPE helps give people an idea if they are really cut out for this type of work or not.

Carma has gotten to know some of the first-time HOPE volunteers including Jill Blashka, a pediatric nurse from Alexandria, Virginia. While Jill has worked the night shift onboard the USS Iwo Jima and Carma worked in the ward on the ship later in the afternoon both share their same philosophy about their patients. “This is quite an exciting time for the patients,” they both agree. “Due to the distance from shore, patients get to be flown in by helicopter. They bring one family member or a friend with them to be their helper or friend or just a comfort with them. No one complains.”

They are all so grateful to have their life made a bit better by caring hands.

Photos and story by Bonnie Hudlet, HOPE's Volunteer Public Affairs Officer

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