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Nancy Leigh Harless

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NURSES BEYOND BORDERS: True Stories of Heroism and Healing around the World
by Nancy Leigh Harless   

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Books by Nancy Leigh Harless
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Publisher:  Kaplan Publishing ISBN-10:  1607144298


Copyright:  September 23, 2010 ISBN-13:  9781607144298

Barnes &

A collection of 25 short stories written by nurses who have worked or volunteered abroad.

Every year, thousands of nurses travel abroad, hoping to ease suffering, save lives, and make a difference in countries other than their own. Each one has a story to tell. Each one has learned more than he or she ever could have imagined about other cultures--and about themselves.
      Award winning author and nurse practitioner, Nancy Leigh Harless shares a fascinating collection of true stories from dedicated nurses who care for patients all over the world. In this inspiring anthology, they share their experiences working in countries such as Honduras,Canada, Laos, Chad, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Mexico, Mongolia, Viet Nam, Swaziland, Kenya,  Cambodia and beyond, where the languages, procedures, equipment, and even the doctors may be incredibly different -- but where the ultimate goal of providing excellent care and utmost compassion remains the same. Nurses Beyond Borders release was released in digital form in September.
One day at the clinic I get a call to one of the consultation rooms to see a sick child. He is about 10 years old. He is lying on a crude bed frame close to the ground. Beside the bed his mother is on her knees holding his hand, mute with worry. The boy is breathing erratically, moaning, unresponsive and drooling, his eyes rolled back in his head. We are pretty sure he has cerebral malaria, a nurse pricks his finger to test- already we are putting in an iv. I demand a quick history of his illness “has he been sick long?” The translator tells me he had been playing and swimming the day before. We attempt to inject some dextrose to correct hypoglycemia and even as we try to save him I know it is too late. Pink foam starts pouring from his mouth. It looks like someone has shaken a bottle of cherry soda inside of him. It’s the ominous sign of pulmonary edema. One of the nurses cautions me not to tell the mother her son will die - as is my nursing instinct - “this is not done here”. So I stand there and watch him dying as his mother sits beside him distraught. I have never felt so helpless. Time stands still in this moment as an African future is slowly extinguished.
That night myself and other members of our team go to bed extra-early before the mosquitoes begin their hungry dance at dusk. I wrap myself in my mosquito net and close my eyes. The bright color images of turbans, smiles, grimaces and lives reel past. In America I have often heard it said that it is not natural for parents to outlive their children; it is not natural for parents to bury their own child. I write in my diary “what do they know? It happens here all the time”. (from "Waterlife" by John Riddler

Professional Reviews

Review by Greg Mortenson
“The extraordinary nurses’ stories in Nurses Beyond Borders have the power to ignite a movement of international volunteerism. As a nurse, this book reinforces what I already know: wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the undeveloped ones, not only through a sense of charity, but in order to promote permanent peace and security. With its insightful glimpses into universal health and safety concerns, this collection incites reflection, examination, and hope.” —Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

Review by Joe Niemczura RN, MSN
For a week or two after Port-au-Prince was flattened by the Haiti earthquake, we were glued to the TV while the human drama of recovery from a disaster was played out live, unscripted, made possible by the sophisticated technology of TV and global communication. We saw the recovery crews pulling out the people or their remains, watched the reporters interview nurses overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of patients, watched as mobs of desperate people swarmed the trucks delivering food and water, which was at first dumped out the back of the truck as it moved along, barely in control. The images highlighted the heroic nature of relief work. This epic disaster now moves to a quieter phase as it takes its place alongside the stories of 9- 11, Katrina, the Tsunami, wars and other manmade or natural events of history.
What was has been striking about all of these is the growing recognition of the role that nurses play in these events. At one hospital the CNN crew was referring to the workers as doctors, until the people delivering care came over to correct them. This has always been true about disaster publicity - the care is delivered by whomever happens to be there and more often than not it is a nurse.
And so this is the background from which I discovered the writings of Nancy Harless. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of her latest book, Nurses Beyond Borders, around the time of the earthquake. Like Ms. Harless, I have worked overseas and written about the experience. And like her, I have spent time trying to make sense of the experience, trying to explain it to others who I am not certain are really interested. Ms. Harless has worked in Mexico and also the Balkans during the recent war. Her previous books explore previous travels.
Nurses Beyond Borders is an anthology. Two dozen nurses told their story about working in different parts of the globe. In some cases it was wartime - our own Viet Nam War or one of the civil wars of Africa. In other cases, the nurses may have been on a short-term mission trip or travelling. The stories are loosely organized into four categories - transition, shadows, humor, and looking back. There is no overarching "plot" nor is there any moralizing about the choices made by the nurse or the patients. As in the tradition of the best nursing "war stories" the clinical exemplars are just told, not a lot of frills or embellishments. and the reader is allowed to draw their own conclusions or ask their own questions. Ms. Harless wrote the introduction and a sort of study guide which is appended to the back.
The introduction is probably the clearest statement about the phenomenon of becoming a Global Nurse, of any that has been written. I found myself wanting to cut-and-paste the whole thing into this review. I knew I was in for a treat when she wrote "....Sit back. Get comfortable...." and then a few sentences later followed it up with "..... And then get uncomfortable -very uncomfortable - so uneasy that you too, feel the call for action...." My reaction was, here is a person who gets it and knows from whence she speaks.
There is a danger in describing overseas experiences, which is to romanticize the events, or the people who do this sort of thing, or their thinking. During a war, there will be periods of time that are boring, or where senselessly awful things happen for which there is no whitewash. Or we are led to think that the person telling the story has led a spotless personal life; or that the person never experienced fear and doubt during the experience, which is a particular failing of stories told by Christian Missionaries. It was something to which I was determined not fall victim in my own writing. Telling the real truth is something nurses pledge to each other at work and in their professional lives, and Ms. Harless deserves praise for that same commitment to truth she has continued in this work. These storytellers shared the aspects of global nursing that make it intense and very rewarding as well as a journey of personal discovery and service to humanity. Bravo.
And so, I recommend this book to any nurse that is thinking of getting outside their personal bubble of comfort zone and out in to the big wide world. Get comfortable. Read… the get Uncomfortable… very uncomfortable…… Joe Niemczura RN, MSN: Nursing Instructor a the University of Hawaii and author of “Hospital at the End of the World”

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