Offering Help: Nurse to Nurse

Kava Zabawa
Charlotte “Kava” Zabawa, RN
MNA Member

By Charlotte “Kava” Zabawa, RN

MNA Member, GAC Commissioner, CARN Member


A week ago, when the bombing occurred in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, I was at MNA’s convention in Rochester, unaware.  My friend and fellow nurse left the convention early to return to Minneapolis in order to, as she said, “pick up a friend at the airport.”  I was still clueless.


It wasn’t until I returned home and read the paper, Tuesday, that I learned what happened and guessed the real reason my dear nurse friend had left the convention. That story is here.  I called my friend.  She had lost 2 friends who had been doing support work in Somalia. One man lived with his family in Bloomington, MN. Now she is planning to go to Mogadishu and offer her skills as a nurse.  Does this sound familiar? Puerto Rico, droughts, hurricanes, fires, bombings of mosques and synagogues.  So much seems to be happening in our world and in our community.


I have learned a lot since this recent bombing in Mogadishu.  Namely, there have been many others.  I’ve learned that the Somali community views this horrific act as their equivalent to 9/11.  This bomb destroyed so much of what had been rebuilt.  I learned that Minnesota is the largest North American Somalian diaspora. A new word for an old meaning, people settled far from their homeland.  Many Somali Americans have been returning to rebuild their homeland, starting businesses, working with non-profits, and running for office.  My friend just returned in August having worked in an advisory capacity with a hospital.  I’ve heard there is a real need for nurses, doctors and others who have skills dealing with catastrophe to train others or go to Somalia.


And I’ve been searching for ways to help. Nurse to Nurse support.  It’s when our MNA nurses support each other at the workplace.  When a nurse is sick and needs to take time off due to illness or to be with an ill family member, nurses on their unit organize donations of our vacation time to the nurse.  We do it all the time. We’ve figured it out. It’s in many contracts?  For example, it’s in the Fairview Riverside and Southdale contracts (although I’m not sure how it works for other facilities).  Also, when a nurse needs time off (such as to visit family in far away places and/or needs to be gone a month or so) we pick up that nurses’ shifts. The nurse doesn’t get paid but they get the time off and we take their shifts as extra shifts.


I hope MNA nurses may begin to have conversations about how to support each other depending on the circumstances and then organically figure it out. Emphasis on the conversations.  We need to talk about it and learn what our fellow nurses are experiencing and yes, offer our support.  It’s an opportunity to better know each other and support each other.


Of course, nurses already know how to support each other. Look at the Allina strike how we all came together. We need to come together across other divides such as race and national origin.  We need to acknowledge our differences and embrace our common humanity and, yes, get to know one another.  And I’m learning I’m not too old to learn. I’m learning to be a better friend.


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