(By Andrew Kendall ) When Teona Green was 12, she spent some time with her grandmother who was hypertensive. Her grandmother lived in Spareendaam and demanded regular check-ups from a nearby clinic.
Each morning Teona would take her grandmother to the health centre located in Plaisance a few villages away. They’d arrive two hours before the doors opened, the wait was often tedious.
Teona remembers turning to her grandmother during these tedious minutes and observing the focus she had on maintaining her health despite the challenges faced.
In these moments she thought, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a nurse so Granny never has to get up at 4:00 in the morning for a check-up.”
Teona Green became a registered nurse in February 2010 at age 24. Like many persons who decide on their career very young, Teona says her interest in nursing is sincere and unwavering, although her immediate attraction was borne out of fidelity for her grandmother’s plight.
For Teona, nursing is essential a job about making a connection with people. She likened herself to the middleman operating between the doctor and the patient ensuring that both parties are satisfied.
“I’m there to advocate for the patient who comes in and isn’t sure what’s wrong but needs medical attention. And I have to help the doctor get the patient’s trust and make sure everything goes right between the two.”
Teona admits that oftentimes she must perform these duties in a society where the perception of nurses is vastly incorrect. “People have this view that nurses are just doctors’ handmaids. They fix the bed, change the bed pans and that’s it. But, that’s not it.”’
She recounts her day:
“I get into the hospital about 7:00.”
She works the evening shift at the recently constructed surgical block at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
“I’m a Night Nurse, you know.”
She croons a bit of the Gregory Isaac’s song of the same name.
“For some reason, I just prefer working in the evenings.”
When she comes in at night, her job entails ensuring that everything is ready for the doctors’ rounds. This includes ensuring sure all documents and charts are in place and patients are being monitored.
Teona, the nurse manager / night supervisor, is in charging of overseeing nurses, younger and older than her, sometimes up to twelve nurses per shift. She doesn’t find managing older nurses a problem.
“Once you treat your co-workers with respect and understanding they’re willing to cooperate with you, it doesn’t matter if they’re younger or older than you. I observe them, see what their strengths and weaknesses are and make use of that.”
Teona admits the greatest challenge in dealing with her fellow nurses is motivating them and keeping them assured that their contributions to the health sector don’t go unnoticed.
“It’s not just about remuneration. In a way it’d be impossible to put a number to the amount of patience and work that goes into a nurse’s work every day. But even just a consistent show of appreciation for us to know that our work has not gone unnoticed would be great.”
Communicating with relatives of patients who passed away while in the care of the hospital is a challenge. Teona tells us that unless in an emergency case, nurses are given the task of informing relatives about deaths. “It’s the hardest part of the job,” she admits. There’s the issue of ensuring relatives in their grief don’t act out emotionally, and even physically. But sometimes it’s as hard on the nurses when they lose a patient.
“Remember we are the first person the patient meets when they come into the hospital and we have a closer relationship with them than doctors.”
She recalls in particular losing a particular patient once a couple years ago, a death she found difficult to handle. “It’s difficult not to get attached to patients whom we see often. When they die it’s losing someone you know.”
These occasional challenges don’t deter her from her adamant focus. She grins as she speaks of her plans for the future, “I don’t want to leave nursing. I want to get my PhD in Nurse’s Education and I want to get as far as I can in this profession.”
Even now she’s doing more than just her nightly shifts at the hospital. She’s a part time Nursing Clinical Instructor at the Georgetown School of Nursing and the Chair on the Guyana Nurse’s Association Education Committee. Her grandmother wasn’t alive in 2013 when Teona graduated from the University of Guyana with her Degree in nursing. She died in 2010, a few months after Teona became a registered nurse. She did get the chance to help her with her illness in her final days after she suffered from Cerebral Vascular Accident (a stroke). And from a desire to make her grandmother’s life easier Teona has become a woman who loves her profession and values the chance to make connections with her patients. She’s a reminder that when we think of hospitals, it’s not the just the doctors helping us get better.