Nurse Interview: Gretchen Wold

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Walk me through your path to nursing. How did you get to where you are today?

I have always know I wanted to be a nurse. I started volunteering at a hospital as a “candy striper” when I was 14. Then I went to school to obtain my Certified Nursing Assistant certification (CNA) when I was 16. I worked as a CNA in a Long Term Care facility until I started nursing school in the fall of 1983. I graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, in 1988, with a double major in Nursing (BSN) and German. 

I worked for 2 years in Minneapolis in Adult Medical-Surgical and Pediatrics. I was then accepted as a nurse with the Central African Medical Mission. I obtained my International Health Certificate from Seneca College in Toronto, Canada. In June 1991 I moved to Zambia, Africa to work as a nurse at the medical mission, Mwembezhi Lutheran Clinic. 

I worked at the clinic for 4 ½ years, returning to the US at the end of October 1995. I have worked as a Director of Nursing at a rural Alaskan hospital in Cordova, AK and as a Supervisor, Staff Nurse and currently, as a House Supervisor at Providence Alaska Medical Center, Anchorage, AK

How did you hear about CFSA? What made you decide to volunteer?

I was reading a nursing newsletter and had seen a request for a nurse to join CFSA in Thailand in November 2016. I contacted Anne Press and was accepted onto the team. I had missed overseas work and working with the underserved.

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Volunteering can be challenging at times. What were some of the challenges you faced during the clinics?

Not having the resources at my fingertips to help a patient. Resources that are abundant in American hospitals.

Do you have any favorite moments or stories from volunteering? Any patients or interactions that stick out?

A woman came to my table at one of our clinics in Yangon, Myanmar. She was crying. I thought she was in pain. I had asked my interpreter, Ben Ben, if the woman was in pain. Ben Ben stated that the woman was crying because she had never met an American before and was scared of meeting me. After talking with her for a while (via interpreter), I found our our birthdays were very close to each other and the woman stated she and I could be sisters. She wanted to invite me to her home for tea and visiting. I hated telling her that I couldn’t come. She shook my hand many times before leaving my table, I had my picture taken with her and I gave her a hug before she left. She was so very thankful for the very little we had to give her.

What is your biggest takeaway from this mission trip?

My team members that I got to know from both trips that I have had the privilege in joining and the local people that I had the opportunity to work with. Caring for the people at the clinics we held.

Myanmar is not a country most people are familiar with let alone have been to. What would you tell someone about traveling there?

Keep an open mind, be flexible and enjoy every moment as an adventure, whether positive or negative.

If I was a nurse and considering volunteering what advice would you give me?

If you enjoy learning and trying new things, enjoy adventures and willing to put yourself outside your comfort zone, then this is a volunteer experience for you. Keep an open mind and be flexible and just enjoy meeting new people and caring for others.

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We were fortunate enough to have time to sightsee while in Myanmar and in Singapore. Tell me about your favorite tourist moment or moments.

Riding on the subway with different team members and navigating the city and transportation system. Evenings spent with fellow team members laughing and sharing our adventures and experiences.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Give CFSA a shot. You will have fun, meet new people and have a new adventure.

Ben Lundsten