Holly Friesen (MS FNP '09)

Passion for the Ukraine

 woman with short blondish hair, pink ruched blouse, gorgeous green scenery

Many University of Wyoming nursing graduates have a passion for international nursing that develops either in the program or afterward. But Holly Friesen came to the University of Wyoming already involved and impassioned about international healthcare. Friesen began her studies at UW with the goal of acquiring the increased knowledge and skills inherent in the nurse practitioner graduate program, intending to return to the Ukraine better prepared to help the population there. Below we have recorded the substance of our interview with her.


What were your reasons for going out of the country to work as a nurse?

My faith in God is the main driving force of my life. I believe that it should impact how I live every day. This means not just loving God or being religious, but loving my neighbor as myself. For me that has meant serving my neighbors in another part of the world through healthcare. There are so many advantages and blessing we enjoy and take for granted as citizens of the United States. It gives me joy to work in countries that do not have these same advantages and access to healthcare. Providing even small things can make such a huge impact on their lives.

With what population do you work?

We work in rural, agricultural communities. The majority of our patients are elderly, but we see patients of all ages.

What are the main differences in healthcare between the US and the Ukraine?

One of the major differences in healthcare in the rural areas of Ukraine is lack of access. Some towns have a clinic staffed by a nurse, but many have to travel to get care and do not have a reliable means of transportation for long distances. There is also very little preventative medicine countrywide, and people in the rural areas generally only go to the doctor if they are very ill.

What have you learned from the people of the Ukraine?

The people here are very hard working and stoic. It takes a while to earn their trust, but once you do, they are fiercely loyal and would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.

What are you enjoying most about your experience in the Ukraine?

I love the friendships I have formed with the beautiful people here in Ukraine. It is rewarding when I can see that my work is making a difference and improving the quality of life of my patients.

What is one piece of advice you would give another nurse thinking about doing work such as you have been doing?

To work in another culture you have to be flexible and have the attitude of a learner. I have learned that some of my American ways of explaining things or doing things just don't work here. You have to be willing to adjust how you approach things. But it is worth it! Providing healthcare in a third world setting is rewarding and life changing for you and for those that you serve.

Holly Friesen with Client

Holly Friesen works with a mother and her child in a clinic in the Ukraine.

Holly Friesen works with all ages in her clinics in the Ukraine


December, 2014

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