Nurse Jasmine McEachern helps Ebola patients in Sierra Leone

In January 2015, Jasmine McEachern volunteered to join the emergency response efforts in Sierra Leone following the outbreak of Ebola in that country. McEachern, a primary care nurse at the John Ruedy Immunodeficiency Clinic and clinical research associate at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s Hospital, spoke to Promise upon her return from six weeks in Lunsar, a town in the northern province of Sierra Leone.

How did your work at St. Paul’s influence your decision to go to Sierra Leone?

My experience working in HIV care at St. Paul’s was a big factor in my decision to go to Sierra Leone. Ebola, as with HIV, is a virus that has raised a lot of fear, but behind the scary headlines there are people with families, loved ones and jobs who need our help.

How did the skills you acquired at St. Paul’s assist with your work in Sierra Leone?

In HIV care, active listening is a big part of what I do: asking people how they’re doing and how I can help them. I have become more aware of the emotional needs of people and this was the skill I used most in Sierra Leone.

What were some of the patient care challenges you faced?

We worked in three big tents in Sierra Leone: one for expected, one for probable and one for confirmed Ebola cases. It was such a challenging environment, but that also led to some very innovative and creative care. We couldn’t use a stethoscope because of the protective gear we had to wear, so we only used blood pressure cuffs. It really made me thankful for what we have at St. Paul’s.

Has this experience changed your perspective on your work at St. Paul’s?

It has definitely motivated and inspired me to keep firing towards my goals, to keep trying to emulate the really amazing people that I have worked with and to keep expecting more from myself and working really hard.