I have known I wanted to participate in a medical mission trip since before I was a nurse; Villanova and the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing helped lay that groundwork for me. I had four years of memorable teaching moments, but almost none compared to noticing a banner as I left St. Mary’s Hall after an NCLEX review course. I distinctly remember reading on the banner as I walked out of Villanova for the last time as a student: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Luke 12:48. That’s what it means to be a Villanova nurse, I thought to myself.

In November, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Uganda Heart Institute in Kampala for a two-week medical mission trip. Our team was comprised of one surgeon, two anesthesiologists, two cardiologists, four ICU nurses, one scrub nurse, one biomedical engineer, and one perfusionist. Together we successfully completed 12 open-heart surgeries. The majority of the cases were valve replacement, repairs related to rheumatic heart disease and congenital repairs.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and of course, I had to bring a piece of Villanova [her scrubs] with me since it was Villanova that got me there in the first place. I was given a lot as a Villanova nurse, and this trip allowed me to give back so much more than I ever imagined possible.

“I know what it’s like to receive bad patient care. Ignored. Be given poor advice. Left in the dark. Patronized. Judged. Disrespected. Dealt with like I was faking.”
From childhood sports injuries to being assaulted while on the frontlines of care, (as experienced by 1 in 4 of my fellow nursing colleagues), being a patient can really suck. But it has made it even more aware of the immense power and influence that comes with being a primary care provider.

As a family nurse practitioner at Family Practice and Counseling Network, a network of community health centers in Philadelphia, I have joined many of my colleagues in delivering trauma-informed care. This means, in part, to care for your patients as if they may have experienced significant trauma and show them extra compassion and care. Basically, treat patients as you would want to be treated.

Despite what I think I may know, I often do not know the full reasons why a patient is in the condition they are in, or why they do not follow our treatment plan. I may not be aware of the traumas shaping their lives or the situation they find themselves in. Although I can try to walk in my patient’s shoes, I cannot understand what it is like to live their life.

Therefore, I strive to provide compassionate and empathetic care to everyone who comes to see me. Because being ill is not fun, and no one chooses to get sick. So I make my patients feel welcome. Listen to them. Break complicated things down. Ask for questions. And give them the benefit of the doubt. My patients deserve the same high level of service that I expect. And I hope to never render the harmful care that I have gotten when I was in their place.”

– Tarik Khan, MSN, RN, FNP-BC
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing