Working Tourist: A Humanitarian Nurse’s Story

Linda Gaye has been a travel RN for two years off and on; currently working as a float nurse in North Dakota. Unlike other travelers we spotlight on Working Tourist, Linda’s nursing work doesn’t stop when she’s off the clock. Volunteering as a nurse on medical missions is Linda’s true passion. Her travel nursing work allows her to fund her international trips and gives her the flexible schedule to make the time to go between assignments.

Her first mission trip was a five-day mini mission to Haiti last year. “I loved it, I absolutely loved it,” she said. Linda’s current goal is to try to do two mission trips a year between her travel assignments. Her longer-term plan is to go back to grad school and get a job with the UN to be able to work in a village somewhere as a humanitarian nurse full time.

Most recently, she traveled to Zambia for a 14-day mission trip. After 18 hours of flights and layovers, she was able to start her volunteer work. That included 10 days of clinic for health promotion and illness prevention in refugee camps, villages, prisons, and orphanages. She was accompanied by a team of other nurses, nursing students, doctors, a dentist, dental assistants, and non-medical workers. Despite the hard work, Linda says, “It was amazing. We took care of the sickest people. Lots of HIV+ people with pneumonia, with TB, but it was just so rewarding.”

Linda has a unique perspective working as a nurse in the U.S. and abroad as well as her own personal experience. “In this country, we have everything as far as healthcare,” she says. “In my country, you have to have your money available before the doctor sees you.”

When Linda arrived for her mission trip in Zambia, it was her first time being back to Africa in 16 years. She was born and raised in Liberia, and when the First Liberian Civil War started in 1989, Linda was only a few years old. She recalls that whenever there was a ceasefire, humanitarian aid workers would provide them food at her school. She also remembers receiving her childhood vaccinations from humanitarian nurses. “As much as I was afraid of needles, I aspired to be one of them,” she says. “And I knew I was going to be a nurse – a humanitarian nurse.”

After moving to the U.S. at 16, she later graduated from nursing school and started working as an RN. When she couldn’t go on mission trips due to timing and finances, she made the leap to travel nursing to better suite her needs. “Volunteering and working as a travel nurse goes hand in hand for me because it really provides me the opportunity to live my dream,” she says.

Like many nurses feel from time to time, Linda was burnt out and mentally drained after her last assignment. Her mission trip to Zambia helped put her back on track though. “To see the reason why I began to work as a nurse to begin with, it makes it all worth it.” she said. Feeling restored after the trip, she said she came back filled with so much joy and started making the running joke that her patients get the best out of her now. “It cures my burnout!” she laughs.

Linda’s passion and drive are so apparent just by talking with her. Her positive outlook will surely help her to continue living out her dream and in reaching all the goals she has set out for herself. Thank you for the care you give so many patients both at home and across the world. We can’t wait to hear about your next mission trip, Linda!

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