SCATTER STORIES: Nurse Practitioner in the Middle East

May 18, 2023
Woman in Desert

Laila's Story

“I used to say when I was a kid that I had four different jobs I wanted to do: I wanted to be a teacher; I wanted to be a secretary; I wanted to be a ballerina; and I wanted to be a nurse,” said Laila, a licensed nurse practitioner who works at a hospital in the Middle East.

Although she’s never danced on stage as a prima ballerina, Laila has seen how God has woven together a career path that integrates all her unique giftings and interests.

“Every job I’ve had has been leading up to the next job, and so I feel like God’s used all my abilities,” she said.

“I'm a nurse, but I’m also the clinical practice manager, so it uses secretarial and administrative skills. And then I have been teaching in the clinic, and I have taught online and in classrooms at the university level,” she explained. “I'm not a ballerina, but I've done aerobics, and I’m involved in the health part of the hospital training, too, so I feel like everything has gradually moved me toward this.”

Perseverance Pays Off

Laila’s desire to use her profession overseas started when her husband had a temporary job assignment in East Africa. To fill her time, Laila shadowed a nurse practitioner there, fulfilling all the practicum requirements for her master’s in nursing education, a program she’d started after earning her first degree in cardiovascular technology.

When Laila returned to the US, she continued studying and obtained a nurse practitioner license because of how much she had enjoyed her experience in East Africa. She accepted a job as a family nurse practitioner, then she attended the Global Mission Health Conference (GMHC), where she started asking about opportunities for nurse practitioners overseas.

“The resounding answer was no,” she remembered. “You could be a nurse, you could be a doctor, a dentist, a physical therapist, a physician’s assistant, but not a nurse practitioner.”

Laila was disappointed but not deterred.

She continued looking for a position as a marketplace worker for seven years. In 2019, she returned to GMHC and approached the Scatter Global booth expecting another rejection. Instead, she found an enthusiastic team willing to help her find a job.

“They were the only ones that were interested in pursuing nurse practitioners working overseas; no one else had that option,” she said.

A partner recruiting company with established connections, patience and plain old perseverance eventually paid off, landing Laila in the Middle East two years later—the first person to work in her host country as a licensed nurse practitioner. Since then, her responsibilities and relationships have rapidly expanded. Within her first two years at the hospital, Laila had hired a second nurse practitioner and started talking to a pediatric nurse practitioner about joining her team as well.

Then, in 2022, Laila was invited back to GMHC as a speaker to talk about the use of nurse practitioners globally. “I felt like I was making this full circle from having an idea, trying to get it [to work] and then speaking about it at the conference that I learned about it at,” she said.

Connecting Across Cultures

After living in East Africa, Laila also worked on the US-Mexico border for a season as a travel nurse, learning how to relate to people from different cultures. “It was a real eye opener for me to see the different ways that people have to live or feel that they have to live because of circumstances in their life,” she said.

Meeting people from around the world who had been uprooted increased her compassion and desire to try “to really understand their story before you make an assessment of why they are where they are,” she said.

That experience also laid a foundation for the work she does now in the Middle East – a melting pot of languages, religions and cultures – where the majority of people have never experienced the love of Jesus. “I get to be involved in living out my Christian life and being an influence to people from all over the world,” Laila shared.

“My role as a Christian in the workplace is more to do my job well and to show that I'm confident in my job. But then how I interact with other people should be something that they wonder about and ask about.”

On any given day, Laila’s patients could come from Fiji, Mauritania, Mexico or almost anywhere else. “Understanding 100 different cultures and trying to get them to understand why you ask certain questions or why you need to know information or just having them remember what medicines they’re taking can be challenging, in addition to the language barrier,” she shared. “We have some really good translators, but still sometimes there’s just a cultural barrier that even that translator can’t get past.” In those cases, Laila prays that God gives her the right information to treat the person’s immediate concern.

Meeting People Where They're At

Other times, as she develops relationships with return patients, she’s able to work with them to achieve their desired results. “We had one patient who found out he was a diabetic and was very, very, very upset about it and didn’t want to go on medicine and wanted to try diet and exercise,” Laila described. “And I said: ‘Well, unfortunately, your numbers are too high. I can't, in good conscience, let you go home without medicine, but we can still work on diet and exercise, and perhaps we can make your numbers go down.’”

When the patient improved his nutrition and started exercising more, “he went from really high numbers to really low numbers in a span of four months,” Laila recalled. “He was thrilled that he didn't have to be on medicine anymore. And that's exciting for me: to see how I present things to patients and then how I can energize them to become involved in their health can really help to make a difference.

“I know that ultimately it's God who creates the healing,” Laila readily shared. But as she uses her God-given shape to contribute to Kingdom flourishing in the lives of her patients and the greater hospital community, she reaps benefits, too. “Playing a part in that and feeling like they're very excited, too, is great.”

To learn more about global job opportunities and how your work can have a kingdom impact, connect with a coach on a 10-minute Discovery Call.

Written by Erin Schipper

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