As I lay awake at night, thinking about my noble profession, I wonder how I can contribute and make my voice heard in 2021, given that I am neither a writer nor a politician. I am only a young nurse with dreams and aspirations for a better and healthier Namibia. I decided to pen this piece to give you a glimpse into the noble profession of nursing, but I am sure my views will resonate with other healthcare professionals, who equally care about the public’s health and hope for a better healthcare system.
My nursing experience started 17 years ago when I moved to Windhoek from Oshigambo to pursue my nursing studies. I was just 16 when I embarked on this life-transforming journey to make a difference in people’s lives as I endeavoured to serve humanity, one life-at-a-time. I realised quickly, however, that I was not the only person who wanted to comfort the sick, as there were countless other health professionals who shared my passion.
This cannot be compensated by a paycheque – no amount of work that health professionals do can be remunerated. Having worked with diverse health professionals from different backgrounds, religion, race and culture, it is humbling to notice that we are all the same, having a core objective, which is to serve. We are the candles that burn themselves to give light to others, and even when we are at our last breath, the nature to serve is stronger than the willpower to give up.
Fast track to 2021, in a Covid-19 era with headlines on the many lives lost daily due to this illness, health professionals globally are overworked – and yet they continue to make huge sacrifices by being separated from their loved ones to serve humanity.
Let me tell you a little bit about what we do: We leave our homes not knowing what cases to expect, yet we desire to put a smile on the faces of those around us. We ignore nature’s call to finish that procedure and make sure our patient is safe, we put up a brave face when deep down we are broken because the patient we tried to resuscitate just died on us, we cry behind the curtains because we feel helpless at times, especially when nothing we do seems to make our patient get better.
We have said countless prayers for our patients, to see them get well to be reunited with their families. The worst of all is when we get attached to our patients so much that we too feel broken when they do not make it. We help mothers deliver babies in maternity wards and what a joy it is to have a healthy mother and baby. Likewise, we mourn when we lose a mother or baby and this haunts us forever because we always think of what we could have done to save their lives. Does it mean that patients should not die?
However, many times we are blamed for the deaths of the ones we care for and the public has no idea that we too hurt when we lose them. A doctor, a nurse, a radiographer, a pharmacist, a psychologist, a paramedic, a porter, and even a cleaner, and all cadres will do anything to save a life but unfortunately, we are only human. We may not serve in the same way but believe me, we wish we can make our world a better place with our services.
Sadly, only a few individuals notice that we too have our battles, and we are not immune to life’s challenges just because we’re serving the sick. Our families also battle health issues and we too have lost our loved ones to illnesses. Some health professionals might be going through divorce or infertility, and sometimes our kids might be performing poorly in schools because we are never there to give them the attention they deserve.
But our desire to wake up in the morning and go out to make a difference in people’s lives burns stronger than anything else. And that is why, no matter what we are going through, you will never notice because we choose to make you smile even when deep down we are hurting. We choose to hold your hands and make you feel safe when we feel unsafe, we wipe your tears away when deep down we are bleeding, and we comfort you when we are also hurting.
Covid-19 has taught that health professionals play a vital role in our society. While people are being isolated, we still risk our lives to ensure that everybody else is safe and cared for. Many lives have been lost and our hearts still bleed because this pandemic has wrecked our health systems. We have lost colleagues prematurely in the quest to do their best to serve the world. We do not get pills or injections to numb our emotions or make us heartless - deep down we are very human and sensitive.
My message to the public is simple: We are human, and we are deserving of love, respect, and care. It is easy to criticize a health care worker when things do not work out as expected. Before criticizing think of what goes on behind closed doors, and what countless men and women in uniform sacrifice daily just to make sure our world is a little heaven. All I ask from the public is to show a little love to all these wonderful people who sacrifice and continue to sacrifice their lives for the sake of humanity. And in this era of Covid-19, please wear a mask and avoid unnecessary gatherings, so that we curb Covid-19 transmissions and save lives. Our hospitals are congested, our health professionals are overworked and tired, some have lost their lives while trying to save yours, and the health system will collapse if we do not work together in fighting this pandemic.
To all health professionals irrespective of the industry you are serving from, I am proud of you all for putting your lives on the line for our loved ones. We may not save every life but let us continue making a difference in the lives of those we serve. Let us continue to put a smile on their faces, give them hope and a shoulder to cry on, make them feel so much loved more than they ever experienced and let us all choose to make a difference wherever we are. It is clear the work we do can never be compensated with monetary value, but I think we are blessed because we have the power in us to choose to make a difference and make the world a better place by making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Lastly, I want us all to be reflective practitioners. We are not perfect, but there is always room for improvement. We might have hurt the ones who were entrusted to us by our actions, we might have acted in a way that we regret, and the truth is we are not perfect, but we can learn from our past mistakes. I urge all of us to think before we act, to reflect in action and after, and choose to be kind and loving to humanity no matter what surrounds us.
To the public, we have broken your hearts and trust too many times, we were sometimes unkind and insensitive, we perhaps did not listen carefully and made you unsafe, we can only ask for your forgiveness. We promise we may not be perfect but we are going to keep trying our best so that you gain trust in us again and together we can make our world a better place. And we are asking for your support to love and care for our health professionals because they too need your smile and love.
With love, a fellow health professional and public servant.
* Aina Lucas is a registered nurse/midwife and lecturer who is passionate about quality health care service provision. The views expressed in this article are my own and by no means that of my employer.