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Happy Nurses Day!

Author: Eric Watlington, HPCA South Africa
12 May 2017

International Nurses' Day is celebrated annually on 12 May, the anniversary of the founder of modern day nursing, Florence Nightingale's birthday.

The theme for this year is Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

As we celebrate our nurses throughout the world today, the South African edition of ehospice has acknowledged one of their very own palliative care nurses who has been flying the palliative care flag proudly wherever she goes. Sister Jennifer Arendse is no stranger to the nursing sector, infact she is quite a celebrity with a number of awards for the amazing work she has been doing at Groote Schuur Hospital where she is currently employed. Her latest awards includes a nominee award and 1st runner up respectively.

“Palliative care is my life” was the opening statement she made when being interviewed. Her drive and passion when she advocates for palliative care is remarkable. Jennifer praises her very first mentor, Dr Liz Gwyther who assisted her for 6 months in starting the palliative care programme at Groote Schuur Hospital. “Liz would see patients with me and advise me on things I wasn’t too sure about. She is absolutely amazing!” she added. This continued until the programme was stabilised for me to take over on my own. The support has been really amazing.

Her work has certainly not gone unnoticed, in fact Jennifer was nominated by fellow colleague at the time Marilyn Beukes ( who sadly passed away) . She describes that after being nominated , she forgot about it and the next minute was invited to attend an awards evening. It was one of those experiences I will never forget. It did not matter if I won or not – the most important thing was that I was recognised for the work I was doing.

The Marilyn Lahana awards recognises the outstanding nurses who have excelled in their field of work. Candidates are voted for by fellow nurses, patients and community members based on their dedication and selfless. The awards are held in memory of Marilyn Lahana, a Johannesburg nurse and the first person in South Africa to contract Ebola virus after taking a conscious decision to take care of a patient who was just admitted at Johannesburg hospital from Gabon.

Jennifer’s career all started in 1986 when she pursued her dream of becoming a nurse. The reason why palliative care is so important to her is because she got to see first-hand what it is all about and the positive affect it had not only for her mother who was very ill in 2000 but for her as well.

During her mother’s  illness (lung cancer), there was a hospice palliative care nurse who travelled all the way from Worcester to my mother’s place which was over 200km away. “She did an amazing job, taking care of my mother.

This was my very first encounter of palliative care which encouraged me to learn more about it as I saw the benefits thereof. It was sad to see my mother pass away but knowing that she died without pain – warms my heart.

We would like to thank all nurses for your hard work and dedication especially for the many sacrifices you make from day to day. We salute you!

This article was originally published on the South Africa edition of ehospice.

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