We are so excited to introduce you to Morgan Booth. We met Morgan a few years ago when she went on her first adventure to the Touch A Life Care Center in Ghana as a chaperone for a youth group service trip. We have been so blessed by her friendship and her service to our organization. This summer Morgan will be spending seven weeks in Ghana overseeing our inaugural Summer Collegiate Internship Program. Without her selflessness and willingness to sacrifice her time, the dream of ours to implement this program could not have become a reality. Read on to learn more about Morgan’s work as a travel nurse, the impact the loss of her father had on her life, and they ways she stays motivated and inspired even when times feel tough.
Tell us about your job as a travel nurse. What does a day in the life of a travel nurse look like, and how did you end up in this line of work?
I first heard about travel nursing when I was in college working on my nursing degree. I knew immediately that I wanted to pursue that career one day. My love for travel has been a defining characteristic of mine for as long as I can remember. My mom always said I was a gypsy because I loved to travel and be on the go even from a young age. I think a good deal of that has to do with my mom’s own love of traveling and the stories and pictures she would share after returning from her trips! Once I had gained a couple of years of nursing experience I was able to work through a travel nursing agency that provided options to travel and work throughout the U.S. During each three-month stint, I relocate to a new city and work at a local hospital in whatever capacity they need assistance. This helped me gain invaluable experiences that I believe are only taught through travel. I’ve been able to work at different health care facilities and see different ways of approaching medicine and health care. I’ve gotten to immerse myself in different cultures (a prime example was living in Boston this fall, which was a big transition for a Tennessee girl like me) and learn just how independent (or not) and adventurous (or not) I am in varying situations. It’s been a wonderful experience that has not only provided for me financially but it has also allowed me to spend extended period of time at amazing hospitals and experience parts of the country in a way that can’t be done on a typical vacation. Most importantly travel nursing has awarded me the time and flexibility to take advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to pursue otherwise.
You have traveled all over the world on various service trips—to Haiti and Ghana and Australia and everywhere in between! How did you decide that this avenue of service was a passion that you wanted to pursue?
I was 15 years old when I went on my first trip out of the country. My church went to Guyana in South America for a mission trip. Later that year I went on a medical mission trip to Cap Haitian, Haiti, and that experience helped instill within me the desire to be a nurse. The people and country of Haiti have a very special place in my heart; I have continued to go back almost every year since my inaugural trip. During college I went on a mission trip to Australia, and in nursing school I went on a surgical mission trip to Guatemala. While working with a youth group after college I went on a building mission in Honduras twice as well as to Ghana twice to serve at the Care Center. Most recently I went to Kenya on a surgical mission trip, and I will travel with the same team of medical personnel to Uganda in April. I will be spending May—July in Ghana as Touch A Life’ s Summer Collegiate Internship Coordinator and I couldn’t be more excited!
Tell us about the first time you visited the Touch A Life Care Center. What was that experience like, and how did it differ from past service trips?
The first time I went to the Touch A Life Care Center was with the youth group I served in Nashville. The trip leaders, Jamie and Lauren Burton, had been to Ghana several times and they adopted their son Micah through Touch A Life (he had been rescued from slavery on a medical mission trip that Lauren was on). They told me what I could expect but no words can truly prepare you for the greeting you receive when you pull up to the Care Center. The children and the adult staff wear the warmest of smiles; they wave and crowd around you for hugs and shout cheers of joy. It was so overwhelming in the best possible way. The kids especially were so open and freely giving of their love and friendship. We enjoyed playing together, cleaning teeth at a dental clinic, and working alongside one another to build a sand volleyball court. It was a great week full of laughter and joy. I fell in love with the country, the kids, the staff, and the mission of Touch A Life. I knew that I would return as soon as I could!
You’ve now been to Ghana three times. How have each of your trips been similar, and how have they been different?
Each trip has been similar in that they have all been full of laughter and joy. I always leave having received so much more than I gave. I learn so much about life, grief, the Lord, and service from the children and staff at Touch A Life. Daily life in a developing country is so very different from life in the States. These children intimately know grief, loss, and suffering from a very early age, but they also know how to lean on the Lord and one another to get through hard times. They know how to love and serve even in the midst of a hard life. On each trip I have always felt so cared for by the children and staff. From making our team delicious lunches to wanting to carry our bags for us, they serve us so effortlessly and so well. Serving others is at the core of who they are and this behavior always inspires me to prioritize the needs of others and serve more mightily.
Regarding any differences, my first two trips were with my youth group/church family so even though I was in a new place, I was very comfortable at the Care Center. The third trip was Touch A Life’s inaugural Summer Health Fair and it was comprised of 20 other awesome volunteers, none of whom I knew prior to the trip. I wasn’t necessarily nervous but I certainly didn’t expect to make the meaningful, long-lasting connections that I did during that week in Ghana. Our group had a really neat mixture of people from all over the country. The power of a common love and mission, coupled with a bond that many of us shared regarding our own personal grief journeys, was beautiful and eye opening.
How did you decide to serve as Touch A Life’s Summer Collegiate Internship Coordinator?
I’ve wanted to get involved with service work on a more long-term basis, doing something different than I do on the weeklong trips I usually go on. I have been praying for the right opportunity to come along. I love the children at Touch A Life and I love the organization’s mission. Plus, I love working with college students so this role was the perfect fit I had been praying for! The timing and the nature of my career also played into this perfectly, as I am afforded the opportunity to have the summer off by being a travel nurse.
You lost your dad a few years ago. How has that life-changing event shaped you as a woman? What advice would you give to other young women and men who are grieving and looking for a way to serve as part of their healing journey?
I think that I am still learning how the loss of my father at a fairly young age (27) is affecting me and shaping me. Because of the Lord’s gracious love, I have felt peace and comfort as I’ve grieved my loss. I miss my dad every day—I’m sad that I we can’t chat on the phone and that he will never meet the people I’ve formed relationships with after he passed—but he had heart problems that were not going to go away. His earthly life was full of rigid rules for what he could and could not do and while he certainly persevered through all of those like the champion he was, the Lord has shown me the mercy in calling Daddy home.
As far as how this loss has ultimately shaped me, I think I am a better nurse because grief has touched and overwhelmed my life. I am more patient and compassionate than I was before losing my dad. I think I am a better friend that isn’t intimidated by walking with family members and friends who are suffering. A few months after my dad died I was telling a friend that I just couldn’t get back to “feeling like myself.” The fog-like numbness I felt had lifted a bit, but I still didn’t feel like Morgan. My friend’s father had recently lost both of his parents within a matter of months and he told her that a part of him had died along with him; now he was left to figure out this new person that was left behind. I identified with that sentiment so very much. This new person isn’t a bad or a worse version of yourself; it’s just a different version of you, creating a divide between the person you were before the loss and the person you become after. Your life has been changed, so therefore you are changed. My advice would be to step into that new role. Don’t run from it and ignore it, but instead embrace it and walk into it. Let your friends and family love you and walk with you.
I struggled with the whole “it gets better with time” concept. I beg to differ. Yes, maybe I can breathe more freely and fall asleep without crying every single night, but time passing also means that it has been that much longer since I’ve hugged my dad or talked to him on the phone. More time that passes means more time for me to process all of the things I miss and love about him. Another dear friend told me that what people mean by the phrase (or should mean, anyway) is that grief does not lessen in intensity but you will grieve less often. At first grief comes and lives in you, just dwelling inside of you every minute of every day. Then, slowly, after time passes, it stops residing within you and instead comes to visit from time to time. The intensity is always the same but it is less frequent; it will pass. I’ve found this to be true for myself, which has provided me with a lot of comfort.
A huge saving grace for me while I was on my grief journey was working with and serving the youth at my church. When you are grieving, it’s very easy to forget about others because your body, mind, and spirit are working so hard to heal. You think you have nothing to offer to anyone else because you feel so empty. But continuing to work with the youth was the best medicine for me. It was also an act of service that could honor the memory of my father; he was so many things but at the top of the list, he was a hard worker. He always, always said, “Booths work hard.” Serving the youth at my church (and now in Ghana and many other parts of the world, including the children I work with in hospitals) as allowed me to help others but above all it has enabled me to honor my dad by prioritizing the values he instilled within me.