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On a mission

When Sarah Bloomingdale applied for a scholarship from The Research Foundation, she was asked to write an essay about her choice to pursue a career in nursing. The topic was obvious – her three mission trips to Haiti.

“For two hours, I treated person after person with injuries I have never seen so severe. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. This was the one instance where I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to pursue nursing,” she wrote.

Sarah wrote the essay without knowing The Research Foundation awards the Edward F. Higgins, MD Scholarship to a student interested in community service or mission work. The recipient is given the opportunity to travel to Fonds-Parisien, Haiti with Dr. Higgins and a team of health care professionals. In 2018, Sarah was the recipient.

“I got a call one day that I received a scholarship to go on a medical mission to my favorite place in the world. It was completely crazy, like it fell out of the sky.”

Sarah traveled that sky after she boarded a plane on an early Sunday morning in January to perform mission work at the Higgins Brother Surgicenter for Hope. In Haiti, she gained a lot of skills through new experiences like observing surgeries, starting IVs, witnessing births and putting in urinary catheters.

“In school, I’d done that with a mannequin, never a real person. After the trip, I’d done three before starting my next semester.”

Despite her newfound abilities, Sarah’s hesitant to admit she’s helping and insistent that her presence is for creating relationships. A group of nurses began prepping a little boy for surgery and struggled to start an IV. He was alone. Sarah brought him paper and markers so they could sit together for 45 minutes as he was continuously poked by a needle.

“Surgery is something that is helping people. It’s relieving their pain. But I’m a nursing student and I’m there to help in whatever way I can. I’m under no impression that I was there to save the Haitian people. But you can go there and build a relationship and that’s one of the best parts. Being a friend just as I am up here.”

Sarah's nursing school class schedule and workload was tough. She questioned her decision to become a nurse. Going to Haiti and interacting with that little boy and other Haitian patients reminded her of what she is working toward.

“It’s my inspiration for everything. When I do struggle, I remind myself of Haiti, which is what brought me here in the first place.” Sarah’s aware of what this fourth trip to Haiti has meant for her nursing career. She’s riled up and ready to tackle what lies ahead.

“This was the most valuable learning experience I could have had before starting my first semester of clinical rotations. I’m very grateful for this scholarship because I’m in a completely different place now than I was before.”

She’s prepared, determined and has a whole lot of enthusiasm to guide her.