A Leader in Nursing: Q&A with Clinical Coordinator Malika Madiri

Nurse doing paperwork
Clinical coordinator Malika Madiri during Operation Smile's November 2019 medical mission to Agadir, Morocco. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Driven to deliver safe surgery, Malika Madiri uses her role as clinical coordinator to oversee, motivate and lead the volunteers who provide quality care through every stage of a medical mission.

Growing up with a sister and three brothers whose hereditary diseases led to many visits to the local hospital, Malika discovered her desire to enter into the medical field.

Today, Malika uses that passion and determination to bring brighter futures and smiles to children living with cleft conditions in Morocco. And starting on 5th March, more than 50 women will join her for Operation Smile’s first medical mission comprised entirely of female volunteers: Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation. 

Women comprising 60 percent of the volunteers on Operation Smile’s international medical missions proves that the organisation’s work simply wouldn’t be possible without women like Malika, who are world-class medical professionals in their fields.

“During my 70-plus missions, I’ve noticed that many of our volunteers are women who’ve left their homes and children for more than 10 days. It’s not easy for them,” Malika said. “This mission, for me, is a performance bonus and a recognition of their sacrifice.”

Serving as a volunteer nurse for Operation Smile Morocco’s first mission in 1998, Malika continues to use her talent and generosity as the organisation’s clinical coordinator, the head nurse in charge of leading the team of nurses before and during missions.

And with 2020 being the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, stories like Malika’s are the ones we hope will inspire the next generation of nurses and celebrate the people who are instrumental in changing the lives of patients and their families around the world.

We recently sat down with Malika to hear more about her clinical coordinator role as well as her thoughts on the significance that the women’s mission taking place in her home country will have for young people everywhere.

Nurse speaking to patient with cleft
Clinical coordinator Malika Madiri of Morocco, right, speaks to a patient and their family member during screening day at an April 2019 medical mission in Antsirabe, Madagascar. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.

Q: What does being a part of Operation Smile’s Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation mission mean to you personally?

A: “8th March, 2020, (International Women’s Day) has a special flavour this year. During a mission to Ouarzazate in 2015, which coincided with 8th March, Fouzia Mahmoudi (Operation Smile Morocco Co-Founder and Vice President) thought about all the women. We had a nice surprise and received flowers and silver pendants.

“This mission is a tribute to all the women who have been involved with Operation Smile missions since 1982.”

Q: How does it make you feel that you’ll be surrounded by so many leading women in their fields during this female-led mission in March?

A: “I’m very proud to work with them as the team leader in this special mission. We are very familiar with each other and have already worked together, which makes our task easier and leads to very good communication.”

Q: As a clinical coordinator, what are your main responsibilities during a medical mission?

A: “Our tasks start before any medical mission begins. We get in touch with the nursing team by sending them a presentation email. Then we prepare the cargo. During the mission, we coordinate with all of the services: surgical wards, recovery rooms, post-operative. Then we organise pre-surgery and pre-consultation meetings and draw up the surgical planning for the entire week with the help of the leading surgical teams, anaesthesia teams and the paediatric intensivists.”

Q: In your role as clinical coordinator, what are the most important aspects of pre-screening?

A: “The role of the clinical coordinator during the consultations is to assign tasks across all of the patients. The most important thing is the patient’s medical record. The patient’s medical record must be complete and must be signed. It’s also mandatory to obtain a parent’s consent. Without this consent, there will be no surgery. Next, we check the patient’s file. Has the patient been through every step: photo, vital signs, surgeon, anaesthesiologist, dentist, lab, speech. The file has to be filled completely and signed. Otherwise, there will be no surgery. The surgeon’s signature before the surgery is also very important. Next, we have to sort them by their age to ease the setting up of the surgical planning for the entire week.

“We also need to take into account the patient’s distance, the degree of kinship, for example, two sisters, two brothers, should be scheduled for surgery on the same day or, at best, on the first days of surgery.”

Q: How many patients arrive at Operation Smile Morocco medical missions seeking help for their cleft conditions?

A: “During the consultations, the largest number of patients we’ve seen is 430 patients. After the discussion between the team leaders, we take the patients who are in a stable condition and who don’t have any health complications. Our goal is safe surgery, that’s our objective. So, we can reach up to 200 patients each mission.”

Q: What emotions do you feel when patients leave the mission without receiving care due to health problems discovered during their comprehensive health evaluations?

A: “It’s heartbreaking. But we always try to take care of patients who come from long distances. We tell them where we’re going to be next time.”

Q: How do you hope the Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation mission will empower young women and girls to join the medical field when they grow up?

A: “Changing the lives of a patient and their family, giving back the beautiful smile to a patient, for me, is the best reward we can receive. It’s also a source of motivation for young people.”

Nurse with child with cleft
Photo: Margherita Mirabella.