Nurses making a difference: Breipaal Clinic

Nurse Van Bergen talking at a healthcare community committee meeting recently.
Nurse Van Bergen talking at a healthcare community committee meeting recently.
Nurse Van Bergen talking at a healthcare community committee meeting recently.

Returning to her life purpose later in life has turned into a blessing, not only for Nurse Maria van Bergen, but also for the many lives she touches at the Breipaal Clinic in Douglas, Northern Cape.

The clinic, small and with only two nurses serving the entire community, has issues with critically ill patients having to queue for hours in uncomfortable areas, and so the kindness and patience of Van Bergen, known as “a remarkable” nurse, stands out, say the community.

It was at age 50 when Van Bergen had a strong calling to return to her vocation as a nurse in the healthcare field.

“I had studied nursing in the ’70s at the Free State University and got my honours, but then I got married and undertook to raise my children, leaving the nursing profession. I always knew that I had a real passion for helping sick people,” says Van Bergen.

Even while raising her children, she still found time to volunteer and help in the health field.

“I used to take care of the people who were ill and staying on my farm, I helped out with First Aid Training at the South Africa First Aid League and assisted part-time at Hester Malan Hospital in Douglas.”

In 2002 she decided to return to the University of the Free State and study primary health care.

After she graduated, van Bergen was employed at Breipaal Clinic in 2005. “My sister-in-law, who had just retired from Breipaal Clinic, encouraged me to apply for the nurse vacancy here.”

“I love being a nurse and working with people. It’s exciting meeting so many different people daily,” she tells OurHealth.

“I like to serve the sick. I usually help examine patients, and once diagnosed explain to them why they are so sick. I also give them medication. But before I do I have explain how the medication works, why they should comply with the regime and also how to use the medication.”

Van Bergen said that she enjoys helping patients not only physically but also psychologically. “That really makes me happy. I don’t think I would change my career, because I have found what I love doing.”

One of Van Bergen’s patients at the clinic Rachel Williams says Van Bergen “really knows how to work with people”.

Van Bergen believes that if the youth really want to make South Africa a better place, and if they have a passion for helping the sick, they should consider becoming a nurse.

“You can make a tangible difference in this country,” she says.


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