You know you're a nurse living in a developing country when...
1. Every time you see a body of water you think about Schistosomiasis or some other water-borne parasite.
2. You're sitting on the commode with diarrhea and as you think about your lack of water intake and proper diet during the day, you literally say out loud to yourself, "I'm losing so many electrolytes right now..."
3. You dutifully use hand sanitizer every time soap and water isn't available, but secretly you're thinking of all the diseases only soap and water can kill.
4. You notice how dilated everyone's veins are in the hot, humid climate you're in and wish you could teleport your renal patients here for the fifteen minutes prior to starting an IV on them.
5. You're constantly telling people to change their diet to include more iron because you have a strong suspicion they're anemic after quick visual assessments, such as noting pallor in their nail beds.
6. You text your friends unashamedly about your abnormal bowel function overseas.
7. You adjust your diet according to your current bowel ailments. (More tamarind allowed today I'm constipated. More rice and less fiber when I have diarrhea.)
8. You're constantly reminding people to wear their motorbike helmets because safety always comes first, no matter the heat or discomfort. (You've seen one too many head traumas from motorbike accidents.)
9. It bothers you to the nth degree when you see people smoking on hospital grounds (considering all wards have open windows and doors and smoke can go everywhere).
10 Your heart breaks a little every time you see malnourishment. Which is pretty much every day.
11. You struggle because you have an overwhelming instinct to fix everything and make everyone feel better, but you're simply unable to. You find hope in helping one person at a time entrusting them to a Higher Power.
12. You are assessing community health needs continually, as you learn more and more about the culture, health care, and superstitions/beliefs affecting health practices.
13. Your friend in your passport country still sends you a picture of her infected eye to ask if it's pinkeye. (You reply yes, it looks like it is.)
14. Your days of running around a hospital floor getting cups of ice water so your patient will take their pills - all the while wearing a jacket because the a/c is turned up so high - seem like a distant dream.
15. Though your tolerance for super-entitled patients drops a few notches, you still respond to all with compassion and empathy because you realize in developed or developing countries, people's needs are the same: physical needs for food, water, medications, and hygiene, but also emotional and mental and spiritual needs. They just manifest in a different way. No matter if they're upset in a private American hospital room or in tears in a hot, crowded Cambodian ward, they are scared, stressed, and in need of healing and a Healer. So we respond with compassion to all. Because that's what we do. Because we are nurses.
To nurses in developing countries:
May your learning experiences, encounters with the sick, and poops be solid but not too hard.
May your heart, food, and water be purified and well prepared.
May the days you have the runs be blessed with plentiful access to flush toilets, toilet paper, and empathy for patients with E. coli.
May your searches for soap and water, Lysol, deeper meaning in life, and a paradigm for suffering be fruitful and rewarding.
Most of all, may your compassion, immune system, and faith only be strengthened by your time overseas.