A testimony to duty & dedication

(GENERAL SOUNDS IN WARD)

NURSE RUTH KGESA: My name is Ruth Kgesa. I’€™m one of the chief professional nurses working in Ward 10 as a unit manager and I’€™m supervising this ward. This is a surgical female ward, which is catering for three units: General injuries from head to toe and also, pathology. By pathology I mean, a person can come complaining of a pain somewhere else. Doctors will do some investigations and may find a need that a person needs to be operated on’€¦ We nurse our ventilated patients here, as you can see the one in front of me. We nurse them here if there’€™s no bed available in ICU for that particular patient.

(SOUND OF VENTILATOR’€¦)

NURSE RUTH KGESA: This patient is stable. She was admitted three to four days ago with head injuries. She’€™s improving gradually. People with head injuries usually take too long to recover.

I first started working at Bara as a nurse on training from January 1968. I completed my General Nursing in September 1971. I did mid-wifery in the same hospital. I started working as a professional nurse in 1971, November. I’€™ve been here from that time until now. I have improved myself as I was working, collecting experience in the hospital, being exposed to the different wards’€¦ I have worked in the paediatric section. I’€™ve worked in casualty. I’€™ve improved myself in my career. I did a Diploma in Orthopaedics. I did a Diploma in Critical Nursing Care. I completed my B. Care degree at RAU in 1998. I’€™m now working here as a chief professional nurse since 1997’€¦ I’€™ve been in this field for 34 years.

KHOPOTSO: What has kept you here?

NURSE RUTH KGESA: It’€™s the love of the work that I’€™m doing. I love to help the sick. Basically it’€™s the main thing’€¦ To me it was a calling more than anything else. That’€™s why I’€™ve kept myself in this very big hospital, a very challenging hospital. Looking after very sick patients is a different calling.

KHOPOTSO: In Ward 10, the surgical ward where chief professional nurse Ruth Kgesa works, there are on average about 32 ‘€“ 42 patients per day, nothing less. The staffing levels of three registered nurses, three nursing auxiliaries, a cleaner, and a ward attendant are minimal to deal with the number of patients in the ward. It’€™s a question of having to do the best with the little resources that there are.

NURSE RUTH KGESA: We may say conditions are appalling, but to me it’€™s not that much of appalling when I look backwards where I had to nurse 90 patients and some of them had to sleep on the floor at the time. But now everybody is sleeping on a bed.  All those are challenges that keep me here. Secondly, I want to nurse the very patient that is disadvantaged. I feel good at the end of the day.

KHOPOTSO: As chief professional nurse, Ruth Kgesa is at the level of manager. But there is no single day when she can ever escape having to actively look after patients.

NURSE RUTH KGESA: I normally wake up at 05h30’€¦ I report at work at 06h45 where I take over a report from the night people’€¦ The night nurse will have highlighted what happened to a patient during the night’€¦ There are days when I do 07h00 to 07h00’€¦ For instance today, I’€™ll be working in the surgical admission ward’€¦ I’€™ll work there looking after the patients for three hours as well as being in charge of the entire section’€¦ It’€™s part of me because of the patient. I cannot say I’€™m supervising somewhere – if my patient needs something somewhere else, I’€™ve got to be there, though the right thing is to look for someone that can come and relieve that’€¦ But if I don’€™t get a person I have to work there’€¦ It’€™s necessitated by the shortage of staff.

KHOPOTSO: The shortage of staff, a characteristic of the public health sector not only peculiar to Chris Hani Bara, is not the only challenge that she faces.

NURSE RUTH KGESA: I’€™m at R113 000 gross per annum. I take home about R5060 per month’€¦ It’€™s very, very little because I’€™m a mother’€¦ I’€™ve got four children’€¦ Three of them are at tertiary level’€¦ It’€™s a survival. You tend to compromise a lot of things in your life in order to educate your children and to live, hoping that you are helping them for the future.

KHOPOTSO: At age 57 and after 34 years of dedicated service, Ruth Kgesa has only one wish before she retires in three years’€™ time at age 60.

NURSE RUTH KGESA: My wish is to have more registered nurses and auxiliary nurses so that we can be able to cope with the demands of the day and also, of the night. The registered nurse does almost everything’€¦ As a nurse you work as a social worker, a counsellor, a priest at times because you sometimes have to meet that spiritual need of the patient. You are a figure. Everybody reports to you. I’€™ve got a doctor, my senior management above me, my patients, my other colleagues, a student to teach. All this is round up around this figure, this nurse.

(GENERAL SOUNDS IN WARD)                      

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe

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