By William Prentice
On a 2,000-acre ranch about an hour from Honduras’ capital city, Tegucigalpa, an ASC known as the Holy Family Surgery Center is providing life-changing surgical procedures for free to Hondurans who cannot afford to pay for the surgery they need. In 2017, alone, the center touched the lives of more than 7,000 people.
The Holy Family Surgery Center is owned and operated by One World Surgery, a US-based nonprofit organization committed to providing access to high-quality surgical care globally. The ranch where it is situated also serves as a children’s home known as Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). Half of the ASC’s staff members were raised there. An orthopedic surgeon serves as a full-time, on-site medical director for the program. The surgery is provided inside a modern medical facility with three operating rooms and seven overnight recovery bays.
To help in the center and on the ranch, One World Surgery coordinates weeklong medical missions that bring physicians, other clinical staff, nonclinical participants and family members to NPH.
The program hosts one or two medical mission teams each month, with up to 60 volunteers per team. Typically, about half of each team is clinical personnel with approximately seven physicians, 20 nurses and two sterile processors. Participants in the mission trips contributed more than 26,000 hours of volunteer service in 2017.
Along with the surgery it provides, One World Surgery supports education, training and capacity-building activities aimed at filling gaps in the current medical system and investing in the future of surgical care for the country. Recently, for example, a CRNA who visited the ASC for her 17th time hosted a training program for the Honduran anesthetists and provided continued training.
Scholarships for ASCA Members
The ASCA Foundation has partnered with One World Surgery to support its mission. Through this partnership, the ASCA Foundation provides a scholarship program for nurses, surgical techs and scrub techs interested in One World Surgery’s one-week medical missions in Honduras.
The scholarship is derived from the revenue ASCA earns from its affinity partners and can remove a financial burden for eligible ASCA members, allowing them to use their clinical skills to participate in one of these life-changing medical brigades.
Each scholarship covers the program fees associated with participating in the medical mission, as well as round-trip coach airfare for the participant. Program fees cover food and lodging, ground transport in Honduras, and emergency medical and evacuation insurance. For information, including eligibility requirements, visit ASCA’s Medical Mission Scholarships page.
What Is a Mission Trip Like?
In March 2018, ASCA member Cindy Young, RN, CASC, administrative director of the Surgery Center of Farmington in Missouri and an ASCA Board member at the time, accepted an invitation to join One World Surgery at its ASC in Honduras to help kick off ASCA’s new scholarship program.
Asked to report on her experience there, she said:
“There is no greater joy for me than to go to Honduras and be a small part of giving the gift of surgery to people. These people have been to the public hospital and other places, and they come to One World with their last ounce of hope for help. After their surgery is finished, it is priceless to see the happiness and gratitude on their face. I’ve seen a woman, hours after total knee replacement, when she was walking for the first time, crying and singing with joy because she was so happy. Another woman, who had been through several devastating events in her life, was given the gift of sight after cataract surgery. This woman brought tears to the staff’s eyes as she explained what a blessing it was to be able to see again.”
Young reported that the facility was very comparable to the ASCs you see in the U.S. and that she worked some long and busy days as the center completed a total of 17 ear, nose and throat, 30 ophthalmology and 36 orthopedic procedures in just one week. Accommodations for the volunteers, she added, were clean and comfortable and included single beds for each person, four people to a room, designated space for each person’s clothes and other personal belongings, and access to a shower, double sink and bathroom.
Young also reported that she felt very safe during her entire visit. Volunteers met her at the airport and accompanied her on the bus trip to and from NPH. The ranch, itself, was protected 24/7 by armed security guards.
One World Surgery Executive Director Claire Cunningham says that volunteer RNs and nursing circulators are always in demand at the center. For those who cannot participate in a medical mission trip, monetary support and donations of supplies and equipment are always appreciated.
“Once you go to Honduras,” says Young, “you will leave a piece of your heart and a desire to return. This trip has changed my outlook on life and what is really important to me. In the end, what really matters is the lives we touch along the way and the people we help.”
This January, ASCA is hosting its 2019 Winter Seminar, January 17-19 in Austin, Texas. You can choose from tracks on infection prevention, coding and reimbursement strategies and ASC management essentials (new this year!). Between May 15-18, we will hold ASCA 2019, our annual conference and expo, in Nashville, Tennessee. If you work in or with the ASC community, we hope you will join us for one or both of these events.