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The travelling nurse: Kwang-Soon Jeon tells all

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​​​​Kwang-Soon Jeon, nurse
Kwang-Soon Jeon, nurse (third from the right), with members of Peter Munk Cardiac Centre’s Critical Intensive Care Unit team. (Photo: UHN)

By: Ana Gajic, Communications Intern, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, UHN

As a critical care nurse at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), Kwang-Soon Jeon fills many roles; she's a caregiver, an educator and a researcher all at once.

"Being a nurse I focus on 'giving,' not 'taking.' I still remember my professor saying, 'nursing is tender loving care,'" Jeon said. "That has been my motto since then."

Most importantly for her, Jeon's role as a nurse has allowed her to pursue her dream of doing mission work. Since 2008, the mother of two has taken her nursing around the world on mission trips to Ethiopia, Cambodia and the Republic of Malawi.

Celebrating nurses

As the largest part of the UHN workforce, nurses like Jeon are essential to the daily demands of patients' care, especially in the Critical Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at the PMCC, where Jeon works. Nurses in the CICU look after some of the most ill cardiac patients in Canada. They are responsible for a range of complex critical care duties including administering medications and monitoring vital signs regularly.

UHN is celebrating its 3,500 nurses this week, marking National Nursing Week (May 12-16, 2014). The campaign marks the birthday of Florence Nightingale and commemorates the important work nurses do.

Jeon and a nursing colleague with school children in Malawi
Jeon and a nursing colleague with school children in Malawi. (Photo: Kwang-Soon Jeon)

Spotlight on Kwang-Soon Jeon: local nurse with a global vision

Inspired by fellow members of the Vaughan Community Church and the poor medical landscape in the Republic of Malawi, Jeon took off to help those in need on her first mission trip in 2008.

Seeing about 200 patients each day for 10 days in Malawi, Jeon knew she had found a worthwhile cause.

"I am filled with love and joy through the mission work. That's why I will prepare another mission right away after one," she explained. "This is my calling."

Since her first journey to Africa, Jeon has participated in about two missions every year. The trips come at a cost - about $8,000 each – but Jeon said she fundraises the money herself and has a support system she can rely on.

"I received so many blessings from my family, friends, teachers and colleagues everywhere," Jeon said. "If you hold your blessing, this blessing is only for you. But if you share it, this blessing will be spread to many people."


nursing students
Jeon (centre) teaching her nursing students at Life University in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. (Photo: Kwang-Soon Jeon)​

One of her missions took her to Cambodia, where Jeon taught nursing at Life University in Sihanoukville. Skills she learned at the PMCC helped Jeon teach those in Cambodia.

"We have a high standard of nursing knowledge in this country, so I delivered the concept of patient-centred care," she explained.

From 2010 until 2012, Jeon taught nurses-to-be, and now six of her former students are teaching assistants at the school.

"I am so proud," Jeon said.

Impact that lasts

On a trip to Ethiopia in 2008, Jeon and her colleagues helped create the country's first 24-hour nursing flow sheet at the Myungsung Christian Medical Centre in Addis Ababa. Flow sheets allow nurses to record and track patients' information, particularly information that changes frequently, like vital signs and weight.

Earlier this year, Jeon visited the centre during a layover in Addis Ababa and was surprised to find that nurses were still using the flow sheet she developed for them. The centre was also more organized and efficient than it had been during Jeon's first visit.

 "We have not laboured in vain," Jeon said.


Enriched experience

Jeon's time away has helped her to appreciate Canada and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre even more. Spending time in countries with few medical resources has taught her not to take anything for granted, she said.

"I realized how we waste so many things after mission. So I try to save it (in my own practice)."

After a mission to Ethiopia, Jeon met with Dr. Mary Ferguson-Pare, the Chief Nurse Executive at UHN at the time. She asked Ferguson-Pare to start a fund for nurses who wanted to make a global impact through mission work.

Shortly after, UHN established the Global Practice Fund for Nursing. Funded by Johnson Insurance, it assists UHN nurses like Jeon who want to take their knowledge across the globe by working and collaborating with others in remote areas. This fund will help those who want to take their nursing to new heights, Jeon said.

"I hope this fund will be continued so lots of UHN nurses have an opportunity to do mission work abroad."​

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