Kim Jarrelle and Shirley Woodlief

Our Nurses Answer the Call to Care for Pregnant Afghan Refugees

Dec 14 2021

Our Catholic faith-based ministry believes one of the distinguishing marks of our care is how we advocate, accommodate and support others who are in vulnerable and challenging circumstances.

“The recent call to serve our Afghan brothers and sisters, many of whom sacrificed greatly to support our mission overseas and have now had their lives upended, is an important opportunity for us to fulfill our call of service and love,” Joseph Mazzawi, director of mission for Bon Secours – Southside Medical Center and Bon Secours – Southern Virginia Medical Center, shares.

Specifically at Southside Medical Center, several of our nurses have been busy providing care and support for pregnant Afghan refugee women.

“Knowing that we made a difference for this vulnerable population, especially during the birth of their baby, is so powerful,” Kim Jarrelle (pictured above, left), chief of nursing, shares. “Having a baby is a monumental event in any woman’s life, one you cannot do over. It is a privilege to be a part of that for these women. Their world has been turned upside down and I cannot imagine how scared they must be.  Having to make the decision to leave everything they have ever known with only the clothes on their back to a foreign country. Then to also be pregnant and soon to deliver their newborn baby. It is truly an honor to be a part of their journey.”

Shirley Woodlief, (pictured above, right), assistant manager at labor and delivery, adds “my first experience caring for an Afghan patient was a really sweet lady who had a lot of different gold bracelets on her arms. Later, when I thought back on that experience, I realize that what she had on her arms was probably the only wealth she has remaining. She was ripped away from everything comfortable and familiar and now here she is in a strange place, receiving care from nurses that don’t speak the same language and have a hard time communicating. I felt sad for her and it made me realize the impact that this experience is having on each and every one of them; not all of them want to be here and these women are under a lot of pressure now and they are delivering their babies here with us.”

At this time, our nurses are focused on creating safe spaces for these mothers and babies, with the possible risk of measles exposure. They have met with an interdisciplinary team and quickly came up with a plan to provide safe and compassionate care, while protecting our team members and other patients being served.

“I don’t think there is any experience or training that could have prepared us for this mission,” Heather Coleman, a charge nurse in labor and delivery, shares. “This is a completely different scenario than what we are used to. We have had to rely heavily on each other and interpreters to get us through. My faith in God has gotten me through this mission. I have prayed for strength for myself and coworkers, prayers for the refugees – for their safety and acceptance by the community. The majority of them have been so sweet and appreciative of the care provided, as well as their families. They are scared and all are not easily accepted in society, so I am thankful to get to share time with them and hear their stories.”

These Afghan refugees have touched the lives of our nurses through their stories and appreciation. Caring for these women is a great example of our team members living out our ministry’s mission and providing compassionate care to all God’s people. Our nurses are humbled and honored to serve these refugees, and we are beyond proud of our team.

“It’s the simple hugs, handshakes or therapeutic hand grasps that help us know we are on the right track,” Heather adds. “We have enjoyed spending the extra time with these patients to hear their stories. I am sure it means so much to them to be treated with kindness and have the opportunity to share their story.”

“It is a privilege to serve all our patients and is one that is part of the very fabric of what it means to care for those in need,” Joseph adds.

We’re also so grateful for Kim, Shirley, Heather and our other nurses who are dedicated to caring for patients at Bon Secours, where nurses mean the world!

Read more stories about our incredible nurses.

Also, learn about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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