“There was no greater feeling than walking into Stutterheim Hospital no longer as a cleaner, but clad in a white dress because I was now a nurse.”
Those were the words of an excited Phathiswa Sotyantsi, who was cleaning human waste, blood, vomit and urine as a cleaner for 10 years at the hospital.
This week, Sotyantsi and 18 other cleaners and six porters graduated through Lilitha Nursing College for nursing posts in the department of health. Studying while employed fulltime is no small feat, but graduating on Wednesday was more special because they now go back to work in new positions.
The 50-year-old mother of four is finally making her dreams a reality. “I had always had the dream of being a nurse, but life happened in my younger days and I could not become a nurse. I remember that I even used to like the smell of medicine and pills when taking my own mother to hospital.“
There were challenges along the way but I still believed in myself and in my dream. I constantly told myself not to give up,” she said.
Sotyantsi started studying in 2015 and has finally qualified as an enrolled nurse. But as the big dreamer that she is, she already has her eye set on being a professional nurse.
The levels of nurses are as follows:
- Enrolled nurse’s assistant: they check blood pressure but they cannot administer medication;
- Enrolled nurse: they can administer medication;
- Professional nurse: they administer scheduled medication. They are accounting officers that supervise the other levels.
“When I worked as a cleaner I was dedicated to my work because I knew that infection control was up to the cleaners because it was our responsibility to keep the hospital clean.
“I used to look at the nurses in the wards and I wished that was me. Now it is me. I am very proud of myself and I am grateful to my family for all their support,” she said.
Health MEC Helen Sauls-August congratulated all the nurses who graduated this week, particularly those who were caregivers, general assistants in their facilities. “They must treat people at public health facilities with dignity and respect and honour the values of nursing profession such as empathy and care for the people who visit health facilities,” she said.
Provincial health spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha said they were proud of the new graduates.
“The department is proud that its effort to upscale and train general staff [because] it is producing positive results. The new acquired knowledge will also alleviate staff shortages in those facilities. This should motivate all other general workers to seize such opportunities afforded by the department,” he said.