In the mix: Making a visible difference in nursing

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, October 13, 2008

Many nurses enter the field because they want to make a difference and they know the care they provide can make significant changes in their patients' lives.

But many nurses are learning the differences they make can extend beyond healthcare facilities, and across state lines, countries, and continents. These differences can be eye opening-like the ones made by nurses volunteering with the global, nonprofit organization, Unite For Sight.

"The [Unite For Sight] nurses that travel abroad are able to see the effect that they are personally having [on patients] immediately," says Jennifer Staple, founder, president, and CEO of the organization. "Most of the patients that they see are completely blind. The nurses see them go from being completely blind, to having their vision entirely restored, and they participate in all aspects of the program."

Unite For Sight, which Staple started as a student organization in 2000 to provide basic vision screening and vision health education programs in New Haven, CT, has grown into a worldwide mission to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. To date, more than 600,000 people have received eye care internationally and more than 16,655 sight-restoring surgeries have been coordinated and funded for patients living in extreme poverty in Africa and Asia.

Nurses' commitment is important to the program. "Nurses far outnumber doctors in almost every field of medicine," says James Clarke, MD, ophthalmologist at Crystal Eye Clinic in Ghana. "Therefore with more nurses involved, outreach activities can reach many more people and those who need to see doctors can be referred to see the doctors who are available."

Staple's vision

As a Yale University student, Staple worked in an eye doctor's office where she came in contact with many patients with eye diseases that could have been averted by early medical intervention. This, she says, is what motivated her to start Unite For Sight and expand it worldwide.

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