Being a nurse is a calling in which caring for others is the essense.
Two professional nurses from Kraaifontein hold this calling very dear to their hearts.
Francis Pietersen and Heather Mills each bagged an award for their selfless service when Tygerberg Hospital resumed its tradition of hosting the annual Hartman Nursing Awards, named after the hospital’s former chief matron Maria Hartman.
Pietersen was the Infection Prevention and Control Award Winner for Ward A10 for endocrine and metabolic disease, where she is the operational manager, and Mills won the award for the best nursing sister in the emergency department.
Pietersen, who has worked at Tygerberg Hospital for 29 years, says receiving this award brought tears to her eyes.
“Being awarded for something that I really love doing and this is bringing excellence in nursing that pleases the heart of God. I am honoured and grateful, but also very humbled by this award as it is evidence of great teamwork. All our doctors, clerks, household and nursing staff made it possible to win this award with hard work and dedication.”
To her nursing is a calling inspired by her late mother.
“My mom was a great role model and a great example of a nurse. We did not have much, but our home was filled with love for her family and community. A home where many came in to be helped. She served them in whatever way needed to find healing.
“I really love being a nurse; serving brings me joy and fulfilment.
“I’ve never regretted it for a moment in choosing nursing as a career. Yes, we need a salary but that’s not the reason why I chose nursing.”
She started nursing in 1990 as a probationer nurse at Livingstone hospital in the Eastern Cape. In 1991 she came to Cape Town where she started a four-year nursing diploma course at Sarleh Dollie Nursing College at Tygerberg Hospital where she lived in the nurses hostel.
She started working at the hospital rotating in the internal medicine haematology, dermatology and neurology wards.
In 2010 she completed her Post Basic Nursing in Management at Stellenbosch University, but after a traumatic car accident in 2014 she resigned. However, in 2016 she applied for the post of unit manager in the ward she now works.
Coming out of the covid pandemic not unscathed, Pietersen says having been a frontline worker gave her much inner gratification.
“We did not have a choice and we were one of the first wards that changed from endocrine to treating covid-patients only. I’ve nursed so many very sick patients who die, but what a privilege to have been there at the end of a life when close family and friends couldn’t be. It was heartbreaking and painful, but I fulfilled my calling.”
Tragically she lost her husband and a dear colleague to covid in this time.
“I realised that I could be next but by the grace of God we lost no-one else in our team. Covid taught me to appreciate life, our patients, friends and family. But nursing is not a one-man show. I have a great team and teamwork is important. I celebrate A10-staff for their hard work and commitment and honouring me as their team leader,” she says.
Mills, who has worked at the hospital for 38 years, says she was surprised and overwhelmed at winning the prestigious award.
“It felt good to know that my hard work is appreciated,” she says.
Mills has worked in the trauma-resuscitation area for most of her nursing career where they care for severely injured trauma patients that were involved in motor vehicle accidents, assaults, gunshot wounds and fires.
Despite the challenges of her work, she loves her job.
“I wanted to make my parents proud to be a nurse and up until today have no regrets. I am very passionate about my work. For me being a nurse is to give my utmost best to the patient and to treat all patients as loved ones. My love for nursing helps me to carry on through difficult times,” she says.
She started her career as a student nurse in 1984 and worked in the emergency unit as a registered enrolled nurse for nearly 20 years. In 2007 she completed a bridging course in nursing to become a registered professional nurse. In 2010 she completed a post basic course in Trauma and Emergency.
She says everyone experienced covid differently.
“Most of us were fearful and scared for our families when we contracted the virus. It was a very emotional time when we lost our dear colleagues due to the virus.”
Working as a nurse in the public health sector comes with enormous challenges that both these nurses face head on.
As an emergency services nurse, Mills says alcohol and drug abuse in communities play a major role in public health being overburdened, along with budget cuts and a lack our resources.
“Staff shortage leads to increased workload, overstress and burnout off nurses,” she says.
“I think every workplace has its challenges and what you do with the challenge is important. Our nurses pledge states clearly that I will not allow anything to intervene between my duty and my patient. I think our management tries the utmost best to improve circumstances for us in the workplace in order to improve quality patient care,” adds Pietersen.
Provincial minister of health Nomafrench Mbombo said nurses deserve to be celebrated and commended for their hard work at a hospital where they also provide clinical accompaniment to students and aid in the development of specialised clinical nursing, while also promoting the nursing profession.
“The nursing staff are integral to the function of the hospital and I am delighted that we can formally honour our nursing staff for their contribution made to the health system,” she said.