Mackenzie Flaws finds rewards in serving human needs
Get to know our students, and you’ll know what UMKC is all about.
Mackenzie Flaws, ’17
Program: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
School: School of Nursing and Health Studies
Groups and organizations: UMKC Athletics, Softball
Hometown: Carlisle, IA just outside of Des Moines
Congratulations! I hear you have a job waiting for you upon graduation.
Yes, I will be working at Children’s Mercy in the emergency department.
Why did you choose UMKC?
I chose to attend UMKC after completing one year at the University of Northern Iowa. I enjoyed my time there, but UMKC allowed me to continue my softball career as a Division I athlete while pursuing my nursing degree. I have not looked back on my transfer decision and have completely fallen in love with Kansas City!
Why did you choose nursing?
I have been interested in healthcare since high school and after being involved in a short introduction program to medical school, I decided that nursing was for me. I like the close patient interaction that comes with being a nurse. I find myself to be a source of strength for others who are hurting or in need, and the reward that comes from building compassionate relationships with patients drives me to do what I do. Nursing has evolved in the capacity of medical knowledge while still maintaining the value of providing holistic patient-centered care.
Since my time with the nursing program here at UMKC, there have definitely been some challenges. I knew nursing school would be hard but it really tested my mental and emotional strength at times. Working through these struggles with the support of my classmates, friends and family has made me a stronger person and I’ve learned that I can overcome any adversity I face.
What are the benefits of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies?
The benefits of our program are the number of clinical hours we get compared to other nursing schools, finishing at a total of 1,200 hours. We graduate with a head start when applying for jobs because employers are aware of our clinical experience. It has shown to benefit me during my recent interview process when I was talking with other applicants from surrounding nursing schools.
Our school, not affiliated with just one hospital, also allows for our clinical opportunities to be in various hospitals throughout the Kansas City area. Throughout my time, I have gone to Saint Luke’s on the Plaza, Truman Medical Centers, Children’s Mercy, Research Medical Center and North Kansas City Hospital, as well as many community placements.
Attending a school where there are many interdisciplinary degrees offered such as MD, PA, Pharmacy, Dentistry, allows for early collaboration as a healthcare team preparing us for the real world. The diversity and variety of experiences that we get with our education help propel our knowledge for our future careers.
How has your college program inspired you?
The nursing program has inspired me through the experiences I have been offered. The school sets out to find us great clinical placements while allowing some autonomy to complete outside hours in an area of personal interest. We have had many people come speak in our classes that are founders or initial members of nonprofit groups, community organizations, and advanced healthcare programs. It has been inspiring to learn that my job does not stop at being a bedside nurse. The opportunity for growth is out there and my experience at UMKC has taught me I can achieve something I never thought possible.
Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?
Before college, I constantly sought out to please others and worried what they thought. Moving to Kansas City has allowed me to find myself in terms of personal values, beliefs and passions. Entering the diverse culture of Kansas City has really molded my open-minded and non-judgmental personality. The low-income populations we have seen in our clinical sites made me realize how fortunate I am for the upbringing I had. I have learned my passion for serving others and traveling.
My softball experience allowed me to travel to a number of exciting places in which I loved experiencing and learning other cultures! With that, I have thought about the possibility of travel nursing in the future. For now, I am taking it upon myself to go on a medical mission trip for my last spring break as a student.
With my time here at UMKC, I have realized my passion for global health and international medicine. I am overjoyed at the opportunity to travel to Haiti to experience their lifestyle while helping treat the medical needs of the population.
What’s your greatest fear?
I despise public speaking for whatever reason. I don’t mind it as much when talking in front of strangers compared to people I know, but I try to avoid it at all cost. I recently just got up to speak in front of my church back home to ask for donations to my medical mission trip to Haiti and that may have caused me enough anxiety to give me gray hair!
Tell me about your medical mission trip to Haiti over spring break.
Spending nine days in a third-world country is an experience I’ll never forget. I went in with realistic expectations but still experienced a culture shock as soon as I stepped off the plane. No picture, video, or story could’ve prepared me for my time in Haiti.
Our six days of clinic really proved how lacking their healthcare access is. Each day, we drove out to a different village to reach as many people possible. Within minutes of filing out of our 15-passenger van to set up our clinic, we had a line of patients. Our team consisted of one provider, four nurses, one respiratory therapist, one dental hygienist and the rest medical and nursing students. All of the supplies for clinic were brought by the nonprofit organization we went with, International Medical Relief. The setup for our clinic included a triage area, pharmacy, community education, dental workspace, and an area where the providers would see the patients. We made the best of what we had and sometimes that meant our triage area was outside on an uphill gravel road while our providers were in a small concrete one-bedroom “home.” It didn’t take me long to realize how much we take our resources for granted working in healthcare here in the U.S.
Describe health care in Haiti.
We educated on hand hygiene, how to clean water, safe sex practice, pain management, diet habits, etc. We, of course, did all of this through our translators, as everyone spoke Creole. I remember a teenage girl presenting to us with a urinary tract infection. After giving her the antibiotic, I provided education on ways to prevent getting a UTI. One of the things I mentioned was to be sure to wipe front to back after urinating. The translator listened to her response and looked at me with a soft smile. I asked him what she said and he replied, “She doesn’t wipe. They don’t have toilet paper.” That just showed me how different their lifestyles are, lacking the little things that we don’t even think twice about.
We often had to alter our education to the Haitian population because they couldn’t store the medication in a cool place, follow up with a primary care physician in a week, or even hydrate with purified water. I knew many of the people needed help, but I did not anticipate how challenging providing the care would be.
It was completely rewarding and humbling. In just six days of clinic, we served over 900 patients. We could’ve easily doubled that if we worked non-stop into the night. The need was there, and will continue to be there. Haiti will always hold a special place in my heart, and what I learned will stay with me forever. I felt guilty coming back to my life here knowing what I was leaving behind, but I have a stronger appreciation for the little things in life. (Like not having to brush my teeth with bottled water anymore).
I was surprised at how close I grew with the members of my team in such a short amount of time, but that is just one way how Haiti gave back to us. The vibrant culture was very welcoming and friendly. The children stole my heart. I’m so thankful I was able to experience Haiti and give back. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to serve, whenever that may be!