|Nursing student feels responsible to help
by Dawn Brazell
Amanda Turner, R.N., made one of her mother’s worst nightmares come true.
Turner, who graduated from MUSC’s nursing school in December, has
traveled internationally to do medical missions. Her mother was fine
when she went to Mexico, and when she spent six months in Honduras, and
even when she went overseas to Peru. “She’d say, ‘I’m just so glad it’s
Turner smiled. She’s in Africa this month as part of Palmetto Medical
Initiative (PMI) to see about spending two to three years in Uganda to
staff a medical center being set up there. The 23-year-old graduate
likes the health care model of PMI, which is to establish mini-health
care centers that will be sustainable by the local community.
Turner is one of eight women at MUSC honored this month as part of the
National Women’s History Project. The university solicits nominations
for women to be featured during the month of March who exemplify
leadership qualities and who make significant contributions in their
Amanda Turner is flocked by children following a medical clinic on a MUSC missions trip to Puerto Maldonado, Peru.
Carole Bennett, Ph.D., of the College of Nursing, said that Turner
definitely meets the mark. When Turner brought one of the videos she
had edited about one of her mission trips to a faculty meeting, there
wasn’t a dry eye in the room, said Bennett. She describes Turner as an
enigma wrapped in a conundrum.
“She appears to be gentle, quiet, southern, and unassuming, and
underneath that placid façade is a powerhouse beyond comprehension.
She’s fearless. She goes where no one else would go to and does what
needs to be done. She’s quite an inspiration.”
Bennett predicts she’ll be a major international figure in health care
in some way, and she’s excited that Turner will be sharing her
experiences with other MUSC nurses.
Turner, whose father and grandfather are doctors, got hooked on medical
missions while doing projects with her church. One involved her going
to Honduras for six months in 2005 to work with orphans and neglected
children. She worked as a house parent for 10 children as part of a
ministry of the LAMB Institute. Her group worked to create a loving
environment to serve as “rehabilitation” to allow the children to live
with a family that loved them. “It was about learning to trust and
learning how to be loved.”
For Turner, it was about learning to trust in her faith. She said she
has been blessed to make friends who have watched out for her in
whatever country she has ended up serving.
“That was a very shaping experience. I lived in a slum there where you
could wake up in the morning, and there could be someone dead on the
street, and there were gunshots all night. It was not a safe place.
Your neighbor might be starving. It was a like a big perspective check
for a Southern daughter of a doctor who had always had everything that
I could have possibly wanted. It made me grateful, and it also made me
Another shaping experience came when she went to Peru on a
university-sponsored trip to provide medical missions to five isolated
villages. Some of the children cried at the sight of them because they
had never seen white people with blue eyes before, she said. She
enjoyed giving out medicines, listening to their stories and educating
them about basic health care.
“It broadened my horizons out of Honduras and Mexico,” said Turner,
who’s fluent in Spanish and loves all things Hispanic. “I really
thought I was going to move to Honduras after nursing school. Going to
Peru made me realize I love a lot more countries than Honduras and
Mexico. It let me see the need for rural health care and the need for
education. That’s when I started looking for an opportunity to be
involved in missions to third-world countries.”
After graduating from nursing school, all the pieces just fell into
place to go to Africa, which both excites and terrifies her, she said.
Turner, who worked as an interpreter at the university, already has
started learning some of the three languages of the region. Sometimes
when she hears of her nursing friends getting more traditional
placements locally, she wonders if she’s making the right decision. She
always comes back to the same decision. It’s right for her. She feels
called to put action behind her Christian beliefs, she said.
“If what we believe is true, that God adopted us, then it’s our
responsibility to turn around and adopt other people who need to be
cared for. I would like to make a difference in health care in places
where, right now, they don’t have any.”
Her nursing class is very excited about her plans and some students
have told her they want to visit her or follow her blog. She hopes to
get more nurses interested in volunteer mission work. Mission trips are
as much about the people on the trip as they are about the people being
visited, she said. She also hopes to do long-distance learning at the
university, which will allow her to share stories, photos and case
“In the United States, the typical case study is an overweight woman
who walks into your clinic with diabetes—what do you do? Over there,
it’s someone who comes in with bad skin burns or typhoid fever– what do
Turner just knows she wants to be there to do what she can. In Africa,
she will have a bodyguard and a housekeeper, two people whom wealthy
Americans are expected to hire while they’re there. She also is
comforted that she’ll be going with a close friend who felt the call to
serve in this area. Her faith is her main assurance, though, she said.
“The timing was right, and the need was there. I feel like I just take
the next step, and every time I take the next step, there’s something
there to stand on, but I really don’t know how I get there.”
National Women’s History Project, founded in 1980, is a non-profit
educational organization committed to recognizing and celebrating the
diverse and significant historical accomplishments of women. The
national theme this year is “Writing Women Back Into History” in honor
of the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month celebrations. For
information, visit http://www.nwhp.org/whm/index.php.
Friday, March 12, 2010