Never get too close to an elephant’s baby unless you want to be chased by two wild elephant parents. So said Susan MacMillan who learned that lesson the hard way while on an African safari.
“Their trumpets are very loud,” she said as she recalled the frightening incident. “I didn’t realize they can run that fast! They are massive beasts.”
She also learned that wildebeests are skittish, even in the midst of 3,999 other wildebeests, that alligators like them for snacks, and never to get between a hippo and the water – they kill more humans than any other animal.
“I felt like I was in National Geographic,” said the senior vice president of Patient Care Services at Mercy Health Services, Baltimore, who returned Nov. 2 from a 15-day trip to Africa. “On safari, there are many highlights.”
But Ms. MacMillan’s African safari also led her on another adventure.
After inquiring about African hospital environments and meeting one of the guide’s wives, who is also a nurse, Ms. MacMillan decided to use her resources to bring African nurses to Baltimore to help fill a nursing shortage.
Mercy Medical Center is one of 14 hospitals across the nation to offer the H1C visa for nurses who wish to work in health professional shortage areas. The H1C program expedites the process of foreigners arriving in the states to work. The safari guide’s wife, who is from Nairobi, is currently sending resumes for those who are interested in relocating. Candidates must meet the nursing and medical standards, including taking an English test, and are required to remain in the U.S. for three years.
Ms. MacMillan said that while visiting the Masai tribes, she discovered, “it’s a whole different world.”
“They live in huts made of sticks and cow dung,” she said. “It’s very rugged. Women are very defined in their roles. Men are the warriors and have multiple wives. Most girls are married by age 15 and are circumcised.”
In addition to encouraging nurses to participate in the program and take advantage of better working conditions, Ms. MacMillan also took nearly 1,000 photographs during her adventure, capturing everything from a bloody-mouthed lion eating his fresh kill to the small gray warthog who nightly visited the group’s camp.
Twice daily she and nine other vacationers went “on safari” (there called a “game ride”) in open-air jeeps to view wild animals in various parks.
In two countries, Kenya and Tanzania, Ms. MacMillan also snapped photos of giraffes, baboons, cheetahs, monkeys, lions, rhinos, zebras, ostriches and vultures.
Technically the African adventure was a vacation for the Mercy employee, but ultimately, it ended as a business endeavor.
“The important thing is to bring (nurses) here and know they can be successful,” said Ms. MacMillan.
“As much as we’re helping out Mercy because we need them, we are also helping them economically. They can send money to their families back home. It’s an incredible opportunity for nurses from that area of the world.”