Instigating positive change for patients throughout the world is part of what makes nurses a driving force in healthcare, and for Genevieve Handy, MSN, CPNP, being a catalyst for positive change has become a driving purpose in life. At the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) 66th Annual Convention plenary session presented by Johnson & Johnson earlier this month, Genevieve shared her story with thousands of student nurses in attendance and explained why nurses should be recognized as change makers—not just care takers.
Before becoming a travel and volunteer nurse, Genevieve worked in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Her perspective on life and nursing changed after seeing children suffer and, at times, pass away. Working so intimately with life and death was a constant reminder of the brevity of life, and Genevieve felt a need to connect with a deeper purpose. She took the necessary steps to pursue her passion of volunteer nursing in order to connect deeply with humanity across the globe.
Between missions, Genevieve returned to school to become a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and gained new skills that allowed her to be more effective in her volunteer work and continue to grow in her ability to care for children with minimal healthcare resources. While in graduate school, she also dove deeper into the impact volunteerism has on global health.
“I realized that global health is not about bringing what we think the world needs,” Genevieve said during her presentation. “It’s about asking the world what it needs, and then committing to meet that need in a sustainable way.”
It was during her time as a volunteer nurse in Honduras that Genevieve found her calling with Operation Smile, an international medical charity that provides free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate, or other dental and facial conditions. They’ve adapted their model to work with local medical professionals, governments, and nonprofits to maximize the number of children served, and their quality of post-operative care.
While working with Operation Smile, Genevieve has had the opportunity to help train nurses at the Guwahati Comprehensive Cleft Care Centre in Guwahati, India, in a collaborative effort between various universities and professors to create a robust nursing curriculum. Through this opportunity, Genevieve was not only able to teach nurses all that she had learned throughout her career, but she was able to help establish a curriculum that emphasized how to translate theoretical knowledge into more realistic expectations.
“If nurses can take real-time experience and translate that into change, it’s going to create more efficient and safer care practices and ultimately improve patient care outcomes,” Genevieve said.
Translation of theory into real-life practice is what Genevieve believes makes nurses an imperative part of the healthcare process. As the direct link to patients, nurses can provide accurate feedback on technology and policy from a closer perspective to the patients, and translate this experience into measurable change.
“Nurses are on the frontlines of healthcare, and they are also on the last line,” Genevieve said. “We are the liaison between the patient, the doctor, policy, and the world.”
To Genevieve, nursing innovation is essential. By facing rejection with persistence, and daring to take action to change the world, innovators like Genevieve are ensuring that improvements in healthcare continue to be made around the globe.
To learn more about Operation Smile and the organization’s work across the globe, visit their website. Watch Genevieve’s entire presentation – “How Nurses are Changing the World” – below.
Header photo: Harry Butler ©2018 NSNA