International Nurses Day: A Cause Worth Celebrating

May 2018

Every day it seems we are celebrating some kind of 'national' or 'international' day, whether it’s National Eraser Day, or International Wiggle Your Toes Day. But once in a while, there's a day that is truly worth honouring. Saturday, May 12 is International Nurses Day - a day when we thank nurses everywhere for all that they do.

This International Nurses Day, Orbis Canada is proud to celebrate Monelle Ross, a Canadian nurse with over 30 years of experience, who has flown all over the world with the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. Monelle, who has always been drawn to nursing by her strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives, completed her education in Ottawa, ON. where she dreamed of travelling to Ethiopia and 'saving the world'.

After completing her education, Monelle worked mostly in critical care nursing before landing at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute. It was there she met Dr. Brain Leonard, who introduced her to Orbis and offered her an opportunity to live her dream. Dr. Leonard is the longest-serving Volunteer Faculty member in Orbis history. From his first Flying Eye Hospital program in 1982 to present day, Dr. Leonard has represented Canada on 70 Flying Eye Hospital programs in 40 different countries. 

“Being part of Orbis has opened my eyes to the world and helped me realize just how much we take for granted in North America. It has made me more humble and has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. When you see how little resources and opportunities others have, you become extremely grateful for the life you live.”

From 1999 to 2001, Monelle worked as a staff nurse on board the Flying Eye Hospital, participating in programs to places such as Pakistan, India and Peru. 

A sight-saving program begins with the Flying Eye Hospital landing at a local airport where a team of local doctors, nurses and anesthetists are waiting to board the plane and meet the Orbis team. Meanwhile, other Orbis staff and Volunteer Faculty travel to a local medical centre to meet with the medical team there. The Orbis team spends the following two to three weeks training local staff, both on board the aircraft and at local medical centres, providing practical high-quality education for when the Flying Eye Hospital departs.

For me, the most rewarding part of the experience is the smile the patients and their families give after surgery. That truly says it all.

The long-lasting impact of that smile inspired Monelle to become involved with Orbis again last year. She rejoined the Orbis family as a recovery room nurse where she is responsible for pre and post-operative care, whether that is on the Flying Eye Hospital or at a local medical centre. Her recent travels with the Flying Eye Hospital include programs in Cameroon, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Peru.

You leave Orbis but... it never really leaves you.

When I was younger I would say, 'I’m going to travel the world.' People would say to me, ‘how are you going to do that?’ I would tell them I didn’t know yet, but I was going to figure it out. I knew I just had to believe.

When asked what advice she would give future nurses, her answer was simple. “Follow your dreams.” When she was younger, people shrugged off Monelle’s dream of wanting to travel and save the world , but she did not care. Monelle didn't know how the opportunity was going to present itself, but she knew it would if she had faith.

This International Nurses Day, we celebrate Monelle Ross, an example that amazing things can happen when you just believe. 

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