TV anchor turned nurse, Julie Pearce's mission to help in Haitiby Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio
Duluth, Minn. — When Duluth weekend TV anchor Julie Pearce quit her job three months ago, it wasn't for a more glamorous job title or a bigger market or a network assignment.
Pearce quit her day job and got a one-way ticket to Haiti.
She had already earned her nursing degree and realized she had the skills and the compassion to make a difference.
Pearce spent 2 1/2 months in Haiti and blogged about the experience while she was there.
Here's some of what she wrote:
"I've seen dead bodies line the street, seen babies born, watched babies die, held mothers who have lost their children, treated gunshot wounds and children hit by cars, watched children cry, helped children smile, been in several earthquakes, been scared to go to sleep, and grateful to see another day. I've seen the worst in people and the best in people."
Now back home in Duluth, Pearce spoke with MPR's Tom Crann about her experiences. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Crann: You were a TV news anchor for the NBC affiliate in Duluth. Many in this business would say that's a dream job, but you pursued a nursing degree while you were working there. What inspired you to take that step?
Pearce: I think as a kid it was always something I wanted to do. I had a little clinic of my own set up in the living room, and medicine was always something that was an interest of mine. As I got into the news career, I sort of had that lingering childhood dream still there and decided to pursue that. ... Once I graduated and had the skills, it was time to put them to use.
Crann: When did you make the decision that you were going to put those skills to use in Haiti?
Pearce: I was down in Belize doing a medical mission when the earthquake happened. ... Like everybody, I think the earthquake just tugged at my heart and I felt there was something I needed to do and I wasn't sure what. But I came back to news and about two days later I was sitting at the desk reading the headlines telling people about the enormous death toll and the great need for medical support, and my heart just felt like I wasn't doing everything that I could to really help down there.
I knew I had the skills and on top of that I really knew I had the enthusiasm and willingness to just stop what I was doing and go help. I figured to myself everybody is sacrificing something to go down there, and what I'm sacrificing -- a job, a career, whatever -- is really nothing compared to what the people down there have sacrificed. And they didn't willingly choose to do it, you know, they didn't choose lose everything.
Crann: How did you practice medicine?
Pearce: I ended up at a hospital, CDTI, and at this hospital I was working as a nurse but it was amazing -- the scope of practice of the nursing role in the United States was very different from the scope of practice for a nurse down in Haiti right now because the need is so great. I was in for one of the amputations, there were gunshot wounds that came in from some of the violence that was continuing throughout the country, women in labor. ... There was a point when we ran out of anesthesiologists and doctors. Myself, another nurse and an emergency medical technician had to sedate these people and go in and do some major wound-cleaning. ... Everything that I learned in nursing school was completely stretched and exercised and flexed and put to good use.
Crann: How did the work change in your 2 ½ months there?
Pearce: The first half of my practice in Haiti was definitely focused on the acute issues. ... As my time there unfolded, the medical needs started to stabilize. What I saw more of a need for was the psychological needs to be addressed. So I went about developing a grief therapy program tailored specifically to the earthquake situation.
Crann: From everything we have heard, there is still so much work to be done after this earthquake. Was it tough to leave that situation and come back here?
Pearce: I could still be there from now until the next year, without a doubt. If I didn't have the responsibilities back here, I would be. But what I'm going to have to do is do more in a different capacity. We just got done sending through my organization $4,000 in tarps down there, and that's one little step. And just helping to keep the spotlight on Haiti. As we know, stories like this hit the media big time for a few weeks and then it's the next big story. Unfortunately if that happens here, these people really will be alone.
(MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.)
- All Things Considered, 05/04/2010, 5:51 p.m.