In 2001, just a year after graduating from nursing school, Holly Taggart wanted to work overseas, helping low-income countries develop their health care infrastructure and knowledge. From setting up Ebola treatment centers in Nigeria to building pharmacies across Latin America, Holly has since brought her clinical knowledge to a wide range of volunteer nursing roles. Through these experiences, she’s not only helped deliver the care these communities require but has also worked alongside local hospital staff to teach new skills.
Improving the safety, consistency, and quality of health care for all is a purpose shared by everyone in this industry. But to understand how that purpose translates in the real world, outside of hospital walls, it’s best to speak with the experts who are there doing the work.
Reducing postpartum infections in Africa
Now a senior clinical data expert at Q-Centrix, Holly’s first experience as a nurse occurred in a small country in Eastern Africa known as Eritrea. There, just north of Ethiopia, she joined an anesthetist friend from Johns Hopkins Hospital for a surgery mission. Amidst their efforts to support urology surgeries, one of the Eritrean surgeons confided in Holly and her team about the rampant infections they encountered after C-sections. The unusual issue led Holly and the others on her team to act.
“We worked with staff and patients, educating them on how to clean the incisions, and were able to correct a lot of the misunderstandings that were leading to their struggles. When I checked back in with that group after we left, their infection rates went down dramatically and continue to remain that way. How incredible! When we volunteer, we don’t often see the direct impact of our efforts, so to get that opportunity was a profound experience.” – Holly Taggart
Delivering a baby and other transferrable skills
The developing nations Holly has visited often don’t possess the staff, equipment, and tests we’re accustomed to in a hospital setting. As a result, Holly gained unique skills she continues to engage with today.
As one of the only medical providers in the countries she visits, Holly has been asked to help deliver a few babies, a task far from her scope of practice. When an expectant mother visited an Orlando emergency room already giving birth, there was no time to transfer her to another facility. Holly had to rely on the knowledge she gained while volunteering. Interestingly, this surprise is just one experience from her volunteer days that has helped her as a hospital-based nurse.
“The assessment skills I learned overseas were just as valuable. We had all these debates about how to best use our limited resources, deciding who would use what syringes for which procedures because we were running out of everything. When I came home, we had 20,000 syringes to choose from, and I could use any of them.” – Holly Taggart
Holly’s unexpected skillset continues to help her in her clinical work as well. Solving complex challenges with limited resources is in the job description of a clinical data expert. The same mental flexibility and dedication to care she relied upon in Africa are just as valuable to the work she does now from the comfort of home. While this transferrable skill set isn’t necessarily why Holly volunteers, it’s a potent motivator shared by others.
Helping at home – a clothes closet in the heart of Alabama
Holly isn’t the only clinical data expert who’s found tremendous importance in their volunteer time. Once a month, Chrystal Payne, a clinical services lead at Q-Centrix, serves victims of domestic violence, house fires, and other natural disasters through the Ebenezer Clothes Closet in Stanton, Alabama.
Part of the ministry work conducted through her family’s church, Chrystal’s aunt started the clothes closet nearly a decade ago as a small local offering. Since then, the organization has grown to a state-wide support network relied upon by thousands of residents.
“We receive so many donations now that we are able to donate in return to other organizations. We donate clothes, baby items, and new toys to a local pregnancy resource center; we also donate to Toys for Tots and United Way as we come up to the Christmas season.” – Chrystal Payne
More recently, Chrystal’s clothes closet – unfortunately not the official organization name – has partnered with another group that rehabilitates incarcerated individuals across the state of Alabama.
When released from prison, most only have the one outfit provided to them by the state, making it difficult to find work and re-adjust to life outside the prison system. The clothes closet donates essentials like socks, underwear, pants, coats, and shirts to help these men and women get back on their feet. That single partner organization can serve around 100 people at a time, and the demand for these clothing items is just as high across the entire community.
Whether they come to donate new clothes, exchange their summer outfits for warmer winter ones, or simply need assistance, Chrystal has seen a huge surge in the number of people who come to the closet’s physical location. Some will sit outside for an hour or more before the building opens, waiting to get the clothes they need to go to school, find work, or rebuild their lives. This communal need is what drives Chrystal to return month after month.
Finding time to give back
Leveraging their clinical expertise at Q-Centrix is a dream come true for many, partly because it offers the flexibility to do more of what people like Holly and Chrystal love to do – care for others. They, and many others on the team, are always looking for opportunities to contribute to their communities.
To support these personal missions, Q-Centrix offers all full-time employees four hours of paid time off specifically for volunteering. That, along with the flexible work-life balance beyond those four hours, has allowed many team members to explore their passions and themselves.
My volunteering has led to so many opportunities, new friendships, and even jobs, but it’s not the only thing I do. My experiences have expanded my perspective in incredible ways and have allowed me to meet people who share common interests. The connections I made during my travels are some of my fondest. The shared impact we’ve had on each other is part of why I love volunteering.” – Holly Taggart
While Holly has slowed down on her overseas trips, she continues volunteering at several organizations, including her local food bank in Orlando, Florida. She and a few friends from high school volunteer here regularly and find the work just as rewarding as her trips to Africa and beyond.
“You don’t always need to travel or commit a lot of your time to make a difference; most of us can help others somehow. That’s why I love the food bank. It’s something almost everyone can do without the need for the huge time commitments of an overseas trip.”- Holly Taggart
This sentiment is shared by Chrystal.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be in the medical profession because I care about people and want to help them. That’s just a way for me. Since I work from home at Q-Centrix now, that hands-on component I can participate in is something I still look forward to. Talking with someone and being able to see with your eyes the help you can give – that’s a truly rewarding experience.” – Chrystal Payne
The lesson they both share is simple yet powerful: if the desire is there, it doesn’t take much to give back. Whether it’s sharing special skills and knowledge or just being there for those in need, volunteer work improves lives and allows all involved to engage their communities and make lifelong connections. As Holly so eloquently puts it,
“Who wouldn’t use the time they have, whatever it may be, to give back?”