A nursing student from Surry County recently spent a week providing medical services in the Dominican Republic, which allowed her to aid patients in dire need while gaining a better appreciation of U.S. health care.
Jade McCormick Kiger of Mount Airy visited the Caribbean nation on a mission trip along with four fellow representatives of the Hunt School of Nursing at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, where she is a senior.
The university’s Office of Communications and Media Relations reports that they were part of a 32-member team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, various health professionals and laymen working through Dream Ministries. It is affiliated with Aldersgate United Methodist Church of Shelby, and the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“Dream Ministries is made up of a beautiful group of caring individuals who use their gifts to minister to the Haitian people living in the Dominican Republic,” explained Dr. Anna Hamrick, a Gardner-Webb assistant professor who directs its Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program.
“Our Gardner-Webb group was blessed to be given the opportunity to work alongside such amazing Christian health care providers,” Hamrick added.
The group set up health clinics at five different bateys (settlements) during the week, treating more than 540 people. A surgical team cared for patients in the local hospital and performed 51 surgical procedures.
Local woman assists
Kiger, the family nurse practitioner student from Surry County, assisted with those operations in the hospital, along with Hamrick, and describes it as an eye-opening experience compared to what happens with health care in America.
“I didn’t realize how far behind they are,” she observed.
“It was like stepping back into the 1940s. There is no safety for the nurses. There was a post-operative patient right beside somebody who had a gangrene-looking rash on his leg.”
“It made me thankful for all we have in America — we take for granted being able to go to the medicine cabinet and get Tylenol for pain,” commented a fellow student on the trip, Moriah Specht of Taylorsville.
“These people are very happy despite the poverty they live in — they seemed to make the best out of their situation.”
Kiger indicated that serving in the Dominican Republic reinforced a passion she has for mission work.
“I have been a nurse for nine years. I have worked in various fields in nursing including the cardiac ICU (intensive care unit), cardiac step down, operating room, emergency room and the cardiac stress lab,” she related.
Kiger is a Dobson native who graduated from Surry Central High School in 2004. Her parents are Jimmy and Scarlett McCormick of Dobson and the nursing student is married to Anthony Kiger, also a Surry Central graduate. They have two children, Mason, 5, and Anistyn, 3.
The Gardner-Webb senior will graduate in May, and hopes to apply her skills back home.
“My motivation for advancing my career in nursing and achieving my license as a nurse practitioner was to be able to serve the people in the community that I grew up in, to offer them quality health care and prevention of chronic disease,” Kiger revealed.
“My intention is to continue working here in Surry County — though I am currently undecided about my future career path, I trust that God has great things planned.”
One thing is for sure, though. Regardless of where that path leads, Jade Kiger desires to continue her mission service.
“I have a passion for mission work, locally and globally — I, Lord willing, plan on joining the team in the Dominican Republic for years to come.”
Initiating a service learning mission trip experience for nurse practitioner students has been a goal for Hamrick since she became a Gardner-Webb University faculty member. She had the opportunity to go on a similar trip as an undergrad at GWU.
The recent short-term experience touched participants’ hearts in lasting ways, they said.
“I know my life was changed, and I plan to make this a regular part of my life,” said Dr. Sharon Starr, nursing school dean. “I’m ready to take care of people who have nothing and can’t get care anywhere else.”
“These people were in so much need for health care services,” summed-up Susan Gilbert, another Gardner-Webb nursing student involved. “They were happy that someone was there to help them.”
The diagnoses ranged from respiratory ailments to sexually transmitted diseases and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
“I’m very thankful that it worked out and we had an amazing group to go with us,” Hamrick said of the visit to the Dominican Republic.
“Our students represented GWU well and showed God’s love to the people we cared for — they each have beautiful testimonies and were integral parts of the ministry team. My heart was blessed observing them in patient care and seeing their confidence grow each day.”