Discovering the beauty in humanitarian service through clinical nursing

By Alexandra Agapiou


When I think of what it means to be a humanitarian, certain words and phrases come to mind: “helping,” “compassion,” “give back to society,” “dedication to causes.” What makes humanitarian work beautiful is that you do not need to have a specific background – you can be a nurse, a lawyer, an artist. What is needed is a desire to show compassion and to work from the heart and not the ego.

I am earning my Family Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. The past few years have made me more aware of the medical hardships people face. In gratitude for having the opportunity to be able to pursue a higher degree, I wanted to dedicate my time to helping humankind, one patient at a time. For that reason, I am an Albert Schweitzer fellow. Like Dr. Schweitzer, I am motivated by my desire to serve others. My service project is helping people improve uncontrolled hypertension by improving self-management strategies through educational tools and follow-up face-to-face nursing visits for blood pressure checkups. I am serving patients of the Hope Clinic, a free clinic in Westland, Michigan. I chose a project on managing hypertension because heart disease is the leading cause of death in Michigan. High blood pressure is influenced by multiple modifiable risk factors, and I want to address those. This project aims for patients to live better lives by adjusting habits and encompassing healthy behaviors.

As a nurse practitioner student, I see an opportunity to improve health outcomes, and I believe I can do it. Dr. Schweitzer is quoted saying, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who have of help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.” There is a huge blessing when something is done for someone with no thought of return. Most likely, we have the opportunity to do this every day. So, I pose this question to you: What does the world need more of, and how can you help?

The United Nations has designed Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day. The Albert Schweitzer Fellows at Authority Health have submitted blog posts in commemoration of the occasion.