Local nurse to provide medical care in Guatemala

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Tashina Morgenstern to live a lifelong dream of nursing in the developing world. She’s joined with other healthcare professionals for a term in Guatemala

An OR nurse from Fort Frances has always dreamed of using her skills to help the less fortunate. With the nonprofit organization Medicos en Accion, this dream will soon become reality as she volunteers to provide medical care in a developing country.

In just one short week, Tashina Morgenstern, an operating room (OR) nurse from Fort Frances, will be walking amongst cobbled streets and devastating volcanoes in one of the most beguiling destinations on the planet: Antigua, Guatemala.

Morgenstern’s upcoming trip to the islands is more than a fun vacation.

Although Guatemala can boast about its beautiful scenery, decorative architecture, and being the originator of chocolate and coffee, in comparison to other countries it has below average medical care—especially in rural areas where healthcare is outdated or non-existent.

From January 25 to February 12, Morgenstern and a team of surgical staff under the nonprofit Kamloops-based organization, Medicos en Accion (“doctors in action”) will provide surgical and medical care to individuals in Guatemala.

“Some of the people travel three days from up in the mountains and different areas into the hospital to have their surgeries,” Morgenstern said. “I’m an OR nurse here in Fort Frances, so I’ll be working as an OR nurse in Guatemala as well.”

On the upcoming mission, Medicos en Accion will be bringing the team that includes around six surgeons, two surgical assistants, seven anesthetists including a resident student, over 10 OR nurses, and several support volunteers.

Morgenstern is the only volunteer from Fort Frances.

“We’ll be doing general surgery, as well as gynecological surgeries,” Morgenstern said. “Our organization also helps with the hearing clinic and they have ENT specialists come and bring hearing aids for people.”

“You have older people that have never really been able to hear that we go there and they get hearing aids for the first time and all of a sudden, they can hear the world.”

Even though she is leaving soon, Morgenstern is hoping to do a bit of fundraising. She said she is open to sponsorship and would welcome donations if people are interested in helping the cause. Donations would help flight costs, accommodations, and fund patient surgeries and hospital operations too.

The hospital they will be working at is called Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro, which also serves as a daycare for children of single, working mothers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic, and homeless shelter for all ages.

The two-week trip costs, excluding flight fares, are about $1200 USD for physicians and $800 USD for non-physician volunteers which includes accommodations, ground transportation, food while working at the hospital, and a donation to patient surgeries.

The hospital charges all teams a per patient donation of $25 USD to help support the operations of surgical suites and post-operative care areas, such as covering supplies, medications, IV fluids, oxygen, a per patient fee, and a contribution towards a house where pre-operative patients from outside Antigua can stay.

Local Operating Room nurse Tashina Morgenstern will be living a lifelong dream by joining charitable organization Medicos en Accion to serve a two-week term in Guatemala. – Submitted photo

Morgenstern said that the volunteer surgical team was also asked to bring their own medical supplies and preferred medications. “It’s easier for them to bring it to them than to get those things there,” she said, adding that she will bring her own sterile gloves and N95 masks.

Despite having many pre-travel things to prepare, Morgenstern is excited to see a new culture, new faces, and a shocking first-hand view of Guatemala’s healthcare system.

“It’s my first time in Guatemala, and it’s my first time nursing abroad,” Morgenstern said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting and getting to know the people of Guatemala and learning a little bit about their culture while I’m there. But also meeting other medical professionals that are dedicated to helping other people and volunteering for those in need.”

“Through nursing school, I realized that being in Canada, we have it pretty good and there’s a lot of other countries where people can’t afford medical attention. So it’s always been my dream to be able to travel and nurse outside of my own country and share my gifts and skills and knowledge to do whatever I can to help people.”

Those who would like to learn more about the trip are welcome to visit https://medicos-en-accion.com/about/about.htm. To contact Morgenstern about donations, you can email her at t.morgenstern@hotmail.com.