Last July, an American nurse wrote me from Baghdad, Iraq. Her name was Carey McCarthy. In a simple, matter-of-fact note, she asked for journals or books-anything we could spare-to help Iraqi nurses catch up in their practice. Health care and nursing there had been severely neglected for more than a decade. "I won't bore you with the details," she wrote, "unless you're interested."
Boy, was I interested!! In my reply, I asked Carey for more information about herself and her work in Iraq. She wrote that she'd signed on with the International Medical Corps for 6 months to strengthen the nursing profession, which had been tremendously degraded. I sent several cartons of books and journals, and we continued corresponding.
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As the TV news showed buildings being blown apart in Baghdad, Carey's letters focused on the health care deficits there rather than her own safety-or lack of it. The more I got to know this brave young nurse, the more I knew we had to tell her story.
When I described Carey's situation to other staff members on the journal, they told me about nurses they knew who also worked in disadvantaged or dangerous settings. We think you'll appreciate reading about their incredible experiences, so we're launching the series Reaching Out in this issue. Fittingly, this first installment provides details about Carey McCarthy's work in Iraq. Future articles will spotlight nurses helping AIDS babies in Africa and underprivileged American Indians living on reservations.
In summers when I've volunteered to fix homes of poor people in Appalachia, the lack of privacy, oppressive heat, and limited bathing facilities wore me down-until I learned about the hardships these other nurses face doing humanitarian work around the world. I'm in awe of these people. I can't help but admire their energy, caring, and enthusiasm.
If you know of a nurse who's "reaching out" in a special way, please tell us. Sharing such achievements honors the amazing people in our profession who willingly perform them. We're proud to present their stories.
Cheryl L. Mee
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