Children’s Hospital nurse volunteering to help young people across the globe | News

Children’s Hospital nurse volunteering to help young people across the globe

Naggie smiles for the camera wearing a princess tiara surrounded by her work colleagues.

Operation Smile Team Photo

A nurse from our Children’s Hospital has recently spent time volunteering in Bolivia to help young people with cleft lip and cleft palate in communities where treatment is not always readily available.  

Naggie Tsang, has worked at BWC for more than 20 years, spending 10 years plus in our Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) before joining our Trust Bank. It was during her time on PICU that she developed a passion for teaching and helping people, which led to her current role as a permanent Bank nurse working on wards across our hospital.  

Around eight years ago, during a visit to a book fair in the United Arab Emirates, Naggie happened to meet one of the founders of Operation Smile UAE. As the conversation turned to her role as a PICU nurse, she was told by the representative “We need you.” She then had an impromptu interview on the spot before completing an application form to join its team of voluntary medical professionals.  

Since then, Naggie has been on ten trips abroad with the charity to countries such as the Philippines, Morrocco, Malawi, Egypt and, most recently, to Bolivia.  

Naggie in Boliva Operation Smile operates in around thirty different countries around the world, mostly in those that do not offer cleft lip and palate surgery for free, or if they do, there is a very long waiting list for the procedure.  

Naggie spent a week in South America and represented the UK in the pre and post-surgical wards. Her role involved managing all of the patient care, from the time that they wake up in paediatric anaesthetic care unit (PACU) until they get discharged home.  

General post-operative care can include making sure there is no bleeding, vomiting, fevers or post-operative complications. Giving analgesia, which is pain relief, medication, regularly monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, saturation, and temperature, and providing general reassurance and education for the families. 

Naggie said: “I basically help educate the families, through interpreters, explaining how to look after the babies or the children with the lip care. Many of those we help are unable to read or write and live without things such as electricity. So, coming into a hospital you find you have to teach people some things we take for granted.  

“For example, this could be telling a family this is a bar of soap, not a medication. 

“As an international Operation Smile nurse, I also educate students; training and teaching other nurses in the countries we visit.  

“I try to bring the international standard and always ensure we implement international safety procedures, as well as working with the multi-disciplinary team. Very similar to what we do here in the UK but with different language, different context and different settings.” 

In the UK, when children are born with cleft lip, they are treated by our NHS within a few months. The causes of why children are born with cleft lip are still relatively unknown.  

Operation Smile has volunteers from more than 100 different places across the globe and Naggie has made many friends through her work with the charity. She has also found wearing her Children’s Charity t-shirt and bringing items, such as Cadbury’s Chocolate has an immediate bonding effect, helping colleagues remember she is from Birmingham.  

Planning for each trip can take two or three months but she tries to go on at least one or two missions each year with her next trip planned to Morocco early this month. 

When asked what she would say to someone considering volunteering, Naggie said: “I just want to say to my nursing friends out there, go for it. Give it a go, change someone’s life. If you have surgical, paediatric experience or anaesthetic experience you are good to go. It’s life-changing and it’s rewarding.” 

More information about Operation Smile can be found online.

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