Nurses at Victoria Hospital will light lamps and renew their pledge of service on Friday May 12 to mark International Nurses Day on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
Florence Nightingale, an English woman who lived in the 1800s, is considered the founder of modern nursing.
Giving personal care to the wounded on her night rounds established her image as the “lady with the lamp”, says Sister Janine November of Grassy Park who is in charge of the male surgical ward at Victoria Hospital.
Like Nightingale, who faced resistance from her family to her taking up nursing, Sister November’s nursing story is also one of perseverance and determination.”I was known as jovial Janine at school,” she laughed. “Biology was my favourite subject and I hated the sight of blood but loved the mystery of the human body.”
As the oldest of four children, funding was not available for Sister November to study medicine.
She applied to Carinus Nursing College at Groote Schuur Hospital but could not enrol in the four-year course because she did not have matric maths.
Most people would have given up at this point, but Sister November persisted. She joined Victoria Hospital as an enrolled nursing assistant, and in quick succession obtained the qualification of staff nurse followed by registered nurse.
Sister November clearly has a passion for learning. “Shortly after obtaining my nursing qualification I completed a B Tech in nursing pharmacology, followed by a specialisation as a clinical nurse practitioner. It was a hectic time of life, holding down a full-time job while maintaining a family life and raising three children,” she
After what seems like a lifetime of studying, she was encouraged by a surgeon to apply for the job of operational manager of the surgical ward at Victoria Hospital. “I aced the interview,” she says.
During our interview with Sister November, nurses entered her office, checking records and changing shift. One nurse asked Sister November about changing a patient’s dressing. She was quick to respond, providing detailed information as to application of the dressing. She later revealed that she got the highest mark in a wound treatment course offered by the Western Cape Health Department for nurses in provincial hospitals.
Seven years later, she loves her role, especially mentoring junior nurses. She enjoys training them to improve their clinical and leadership skills.
All students are expected to perform at a high standard, and Sister November ensures that all those under her tutelage exit the surgical ward competent in all aspect of nursing care.
What next for Sister November? She is considering advancing her career in management.
Dr Melvin Moodley, CEO of Victoria Hospital, says for those interested in studying nursing, it remains a career choice with numerous opportunities for growth.
“As with Ms November, you can advance clinically, academically, or in management where you can manage a ward, a hospital or even an entire health department. Nursing is an exciting career opportunity, but it does require dedication and compassion,” says Dr Moodley.
He describes nursing as a calling: to serve the sick, the vulnerable, and those who most need care and compassion. Nurses often work in difficult circumstances, and require a combination of intelligence, clinical skill, and compassion.
Assistant head of nurses, Sister Pauline Hawksworth says every year Victoria Hospital holds a special event for Nurses Day where they light lamps as a reminder of why they go into nursing. This year they are holding a breakfast and will have guest speakers, gifts and team building.
Danver Roman of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA), said the theme for this year is: Nurses: A Voice To Lead – Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Denosa is a voluntary organisation for South African nurses and midwifery professionals. It aims to safeguard and promote the dignity, rights, and socio-economic status of members in the nursing profession.
Mr Roman says the theme calls on all nurses to play their part in the achievement of SDGs. “These include no poverty, zero hunger and good health and wellbeing. While the professional role of nurses is to advance the latter, the others are closely related to health and are what we term as social health determinants,” says Mr Roman.