By Lynne Gayle
Ready for adventure after her two children left for college, Anita Rich became a volunteer with the Children’s Heart Project. The medical mission appealed to the 37-year nursing veteran and cardiac specialist and soon Rich, as a nurse transporter, accompanied children who needed life-saving heart repair surgery to receive surgery in the United States. Her patients, traveling with anxious parents, came from Kosovo, Honduras, Uganda and Mongolia.
Rich’s mission experiences led her to further adventures and goals including founding Nurses Heart to Heart (nhth.org), a non-profit organization, to help educate nurses in developing countries. Her background as an “army brat” during her youth exposed her to a variety of communities and cultures and inspired her passion for helping others.
She is now attending the Lewis College to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), motivated to continue her education comes from her observations on how nurses affect people and communities throughout the world.
“I’ve learned so much by growing up in a variety of places,” said Rich. “Now, as a nurse who volunteers in other countries, I’ve learned that nurses have a universal heart and desire to provide whatever they can to alleviate suffering and comfort their patients.”
Rich leads a team of nurses who travel to Mongolia every year and have taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to nurses in every province in Mongolia over the last ten years. The NHTH organization donates manikins along with the training. Rich and her team also work with the nurses to learn more about their needs in providing care.
“In Mongolia, I was surprised to learn that the nurses did not know how to perform CPR, and that is a life or death procedure for heart patients.”
She decided that additional education, particularly with the leadership aspect of the DNP, would give her the skills and preparation to achieve the continued goals of NHTH.
“One of the challenges that I want to address in Mongolia is how to change the way nurses perceive themselves and how the public perceives them,” said Rich. “They are not always a respected profession.”
“There are so many opportunities for a nurse to teach nurses around the world,” said Rich.
Rich has also volunteered on several medical missions to Iraq. She witnessed a blend of people from various beliefs and cultures who helped and respected one another in a hospital waiting room.
“I’ve been with people from vastly different backgrounds, and as we sit together, we recognize ourselves in each other,” said Rich. “The love of a mother for her child or a nurse to a patient is the same.”