DENOSA held its 22nd National Marilyn Lahana Trust Awards ceremony at the Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria on Wednesday evening. This initiative was to honor and recognise nurses who go beyond the call of duty to provide quality nursing services to patients and communities in their respectful provinces and institutions.
Nurses, not in their usual nursing uniform, looked dapper as they attended the ceremony, to be the first to witness and support the announcement of the most caring nurse in South Africa. It was a tight competition among the nominees. However, Patience Shipalane, a staff nurse at the Nurse Kitty Program from the Western Cape topped the list of eight provincial contenders, who were recognized as the most caring nurses in their provinces respectfully.
With her new title as the country’s most caring nurse, Shipalane took home a cash price of R10 000, a laptop, trophy and a certificate. Her first runner-up, Nthabiseng Sigudla, a Professional Nurse at the Phola Nsikazi CHC in Mpumalanga took home R7 500, a laptop, trophy and a certificate. The second runner-up, Duduzile Ndlovu, a Professional Nurse at Thuthuzela Care Centre at Port Shepstone Hospital in KwaZulu- Natal took home R5000, a laptop, trophy and a certificate.
The Marilyn Lahana Caring Awards is an annual event hosted by DENOSA, to recognise outstanding members of the nursing and midwifery professions who have shown special qualities of dedication towards their patients, colleagues and communities. DENOSA encourages nurses to continue to identify and nominate nurses and midwives in their institutions who show the aforementioned qualities.
About South Africa’s most caring nurse
Patience Shipalane services more than 56 crèches. In George sub district she services 136 crèches; she services both registered and unregistered crèches and services each crèche twice a year to give vitamin A and Deworming and outstanding immunisation. She also checks other health related issues like dental care and refer them where necessary. Dental issues are very prominent in these communities. She provides street community service via Wellness mobile clinic. She had been servicing zones 1 to 9 since 2014.
Shipalane enjoys working with the community; however she does have some serious challenges. The most prominent challenge that she had was that the “Road to Health” booklets for most children are behind on their immunizations. Due to the delayed and missing immunizations, there are lot of diarrheal outbreak cases in those communities. In trying to mitigate the spread of the outbreak, she personally calls the parents of the children who do not attend crèches for immunizations. She makes appointments for them in the clinics and follow - up with them after the appointments. She organizes in service training to the crèche teachers and train them about “Road to Health” booklet. She created Oral Rehydration Therapy Corner in the crèches were there are empty 1 liter water bottles, sugar and salt. This is a fluid replacement that could be used as a treatment for dehydration.
She continues with the training of each child on how to properly wash their hands, and teach them the benefits of using soap and water. Some activities involved giving the children coloring books with the story about health issues. As a multi-disciplinary team, they train children about daily brushing of teeth at the crèche, hand hygiene, promote good diet, and promote safety precautions to prevent them from eating or drinking poison.
She uses every opportunity that she gets during regular community meetings to encourage and educate them on the importance of immunization. She is recognized as one of the prominent speakers in the community, so they usually invited her to address their community functions, and used that opportunity to promote health issues like hand hygiene, family planning, cervical cancer screenings, breast feeding and any other primary health related issues.
She organizes wellness and outreach days. In one wellness day, +120 people were reached. Out of the 120, 70 people had done HIV screening; those with positive results were referred to the clinic. These outreaches have resulted in a lot of referrals, which has saved so many lives in the George area. Between April and June 2017, 423 people started with their ARV medication. The TB screening resulted in 303 new patients starting taking their TB treatment. Their monthly family planning program at South Cape College prevents an average of 30 unplanned pregnancies every month. The greatest impact is our door to door campaigns where we check the status of the children’s “Road to Health” booklets, an average of 30 to 50 children under 5 get their outstanding Vitamin A and Deworming, which had positive outcomes for betterment of the children’s health status.
In most cases those are just symptoms as when attending to those concerns, she discovered serious social challenges including parental neglect, child abuse, sever and extreme poverty and lack of proper legal documents like birth certificate. These are challenges that no one would ever know unless they are community health workers who go where the people live. She felt overjoyed when at the end she could assisted and be able to connect them with people and places where they could find help, like social workers, home affairs and counsellors. Her joy is fulfilled when few months down the line there is a positive outcome from her direct intervention and there is a change in the livelihood of community members who had challenges.
Women’s health is another area that she promotes in the community. Patience encourages women every time to stay well, gives them information about family planning and motivates them to do cervical screening and to do breast examination every month. She also prioritizes HIV screening; she does this to help people know their status so that they could reach out for help as soon as possible since HIV is incurable.
She always enjoys volunteering and servicing her community outside her office hours. She works very hard on her off days to make a difference to her community. She does a lot of health talks at the church, community events, graduations and municipality public events. During the fire disasters, she committed a lot of hours working in the hospital. Her belief is that; she may not change the whole community at once, but if she could make a difference in one person’s life a day, that makes her fulfilled. Her motto is “One life at a time”; if it happened to change two at a time, it is a bonus.
As a public health worker, she considers herself a teacher. Everywhere she goes, she creates awareness about diarrhea, benefits of sanitation, hands hygiene, Environmental hygiene, food safety, personal hygiene and also encouraged communities to keep toilets clean. She spends most of her time focusing on the Informal settlement zones because as per 2016 clinics diarrhea statistics, those are the places where there are more cases of children under 5 years that are mostly affected. One of the successful events was when Patience talked to the 76 Fire Department employees, the great outcomes were that after the talk six women did Cervical Cancer Screening, 18 did Family planning and 20 were tested for HIV.
Advocacy: Now there is awareness and more focus on the children’s health and welfare in the community and crèches. Few years ago there was no dedicated active health worker who was focusing on these innocent kids. Recently their region prides itself with the great success that they archived so far. They have saved the government from spending lot of money for curative purposes, but above all and most importantly, they have saved a lot of lives through these community health programmes.