Travelers in Nigeria

August 17, 2022 | Clinician Stories

When Jennifer Copelin first decided to become a travel nurse, she had no idea it would one day take her as far as Nigeria. 

Jennifer originally became a travel nurse for the lifestyle. As an empty nester, the freedom and flexibility of travel nursing appealed to her. “I’ve always loved to travel,” Jennifer explained. “And the flexibility to pick and choose my assignments is incredible.” 

Travel nursing took Jennifer to many places outside of her home state of Texas. She traveled to Kentucky, Missouri, and even as far as Oregon for her assignments, but it wasn’t until she met her friend, Janny McKenzie, that she would consider working overseas. 

Jennifer explained, “I was working in a hospital with Dr. McKenzie and connected with his wife, Janny. Janny was also a nurse, and we became close friends. They were talking about going on a medical mission to Nigeria through a nonprofit called International Mission Opportunities. It piqued my interest, and I decided to join them.”  

Jennifer and Janny’s first mission trip was to Jos, Nigeria in 2017. While there, they assisted in 100 surgeries over the course of just five days, using a make-shift operating room created out of a childcare center. Jennifer and Janny screened patients and then the surgical team performed hernia repairs, hysterectomies and fibroid removal. 

International Mission Opportunities is committed to helping as many people as possible, by providing life-changing medical help.  

Working in places struggling with the worldwide nursing shortage also leads to many teaching opportunities. While respecting the existing teaching in place, Jennifer was able to add to the education of the local medical workers. 

“In 2018, we did our first nursing workshop, and our most recent mission trip was in April of this year,” said Jennifer. “We did breakout groups with 22 nurses. Handwashing, IV starts, infant and adult CPR. The people of Jos and the medical community in Nigeria truly do their best.” 

Since her first clinic in Jos, Jennifer has assisted in the development of a curriculum and overseen nursing clinics in Lagos and Port Harcourt, Nigeria, teaching how to treat everything from diabetes, snake bites, post-partum and pediatrics. An entire day is dedicated to basic life support and skills checkoffs. 

The International Council of Nurses recently reported that there is a worldwide nursing shortage of 5.9 million. Thanks to humanitarian heroes like Jennifer and Janny, and organizations like International Mission Opportunities, places like Jos, Lagos and Port Harcourt are still able to receive the vital nursing and medical assistance they require. 

“I go because I can’t afford to not go,” said Jennifer. “I know we’re making a difference and helping build the pipeline for future nurses.”  


World Humanitarian Day first began on August 19 more than a decade ago as a day to recognize people helping people. This year’s World Humanitarian Day is focused on Real Life Heroes. 


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