Teamwork and adaptability learned at Clemson served Sarah Strickland well abroad and back home. Critical skills such as communication and resourcefulness have helped Strickland from every job as a nurse in the ICU step-down unit, to working on a ship in Madagascar, to now working in an emergency room.
But it was working abroad that brought all the lessons from Clemson to the forefront. Knowing she was wrapping up the first few years of her career in Clemson, Lexington native Sarah Strickland began looking for adventures in nursing. She found one in Mercy Ships, an international faith-based organization with a mission to increase health care throughout the world. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.54 million people.
From November 2015 to February 2016, Strickland lived on Africa Mercy which was docked in Madagascar, and worked alongside surgeons in facial tumor removal and cleft lip and palate reconstruction. The ship, which began service in 2007, offers an 82-bed ward.
Strickland learned about the mission opportunity from one of her co-workers who lived in Africa for a while. And after multiple short-term mission trips as a high school student, Strickland wasn’t afraid of tackling a challenge overseas. “I prayed about it for a few weeks and ended up applying at the end of the summer,” she said.
The timing meant she wouldn’t be on an early 2015 trip, but would be considered for an early 2016 team. But life in South Carolina didn’t prep Strickland for everything. “I’d never done much with pediatrics or facial patients,” said Strickland. “And most conditions would have been treated long before they got to the point we were seeing. I worked in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and a step-down unit, but for the most part, working in Madagascar was completely different from anything I had ever done, which was the situation for most of my co-workers, so it was a learning curve for everybody.”
What Clemson and her training had prepped her for was being adaptable. “Clemson definitely teaches you how to think critically. When we were over there we didn’t have access to as many resources as we have over here. … We had to rely on a lot more of our judgment. Clemson just also really encourages a teamwork approach to nursing. Over there I really experienced the need to rely on my co-workers as teammates even more so than working here.”
Clemson tiger paw temporary tattoos, stickers and flags also helped Strickland bring one of her loves to her patients. “There was 14-year-old kid who had a tumor. The day he had it removed was the day of the National Championship game. So I put [tiger paws] on a bunch of the kids, including him. The first time he got to look at the back of his head without the tumor, he had a tiger paw on his cheek.”
“Seeing the look on his face when he got to see that just reminded me [Clemson] is what brought me here, and it just all came together,” she said.”