“If I had to live my life all over again, there are two things I would do: serve Jesus and do nursing. I just love nursing and I wish that those who have chosen this career would so love it.”
By Leon Suseran
Javitrie Eugene is fondly referred to as ‘Sister Eugene’ by those in the nursing fraternity, families and especially friends. She is well- known for her long years–44 to be exact– spent in the nursing profession, serving in many hospitals across the Ancient County of Berbice. Today, she is still nurturing young nurses and overseeing their training, moulding their minds and preparing them for a profession to which she gave her utmost dedication and love.
Sister Eugene insists that if she had to live her life over again, two things she would do: serve Jesus and be a nurse.
Born at Plantation Foulis, West Coast Berbice, Javitrie Eugene was one of eleven children born to Jaiwantee and Ramkellawan, both farmers. She attended St Alban’s Anglican School and the Ashram School in Mahaicony, where she received her secondary education.
Although she loved nursing very much, teaching was her first option. She taught at Cotton Tree Primary for a while until she joined Batch 27 at the New Amsterdam (N/A) Nursing School in 1968. She was one of twenty- nine students.
Javitrie says she can never forget her first day as a nurse- trainee.
“It was a joy. I came in my white uniform, with my books… I had never come to New Amsterdam. It was thrilling.”
She remembers her days at the [old] New Amsterdam Hospital under the eucalyptus tree [now uprooted].
“We used to go under there, sometimes, and Sir would take us for a short walk out of the hospital and take photos.”
Mr. Samaroo, Mrs. Bart and Sister La Rose, were some of her lecturers she expressed admiration for.
After three years of training, she became a Registered Nurse (RN) in 1972 and later became a Midwife. Her mother had passed away two days before she would have written her Midwifery exams but she still did well. She quickly moved up the ranks and became a Ward Sister in 1980. She worked in all the wards and as Nurse-in- Charge of the wards, at Skeldon and Mahaicony Hospitals, and in Public Health from Mara to Crabwood Creek as well as Port Mourant Hospitals.
“It was exciting; it helped me to develop confidence in myself. It helped me to help people…to appreciate how people were.”
She built her career during her different tenures at those places and made a lot of friends. She became integrated into the East Berbice area– the West Berbice girl she was.
Then she continued her studies at the University of Guyana in 1987, doing a course in Health Sciences. She returned to teach at the New Amsterdam Nursing School as a Tutor 1. She was quickly promoted to Tutor 2 and subsequently Senior Tutor. She retired in 2002, but continues to this day as Senior Tutor at the N/A Nursing School.
MEMORIES AND REFLECTIONS
Javitrie simply loves working. “I was rarely absent from duty– if I was absent, I was because I was really not feeling well, but I never had a lot of sick leave and absent days, and I never used to stay home”.
She credited her husband, in this regard, for his unwavering support.
The dedicated nurse reflected on how memorable it was to work in the Male Septic Surgical Ward at New Amsterdam, a ward where male senior citizens with urinary problems, etc., were located. She recalls carrying many of them to the bathroom and showering them.
“I used to comb their hair, cut their beards—and we would feed them and take them out to the stairway area and give them sunshine. It was a pleasure to make their beds up, and see that they were neat, and if they wanted to sleep, I would ensure they are tucked in nicely. I loved caring for these kinds of people.”
“They were old and neglected but we used to take of them.”
She vividly remembers working in a ward when the doctor would come and she would have everything prepared since she knew what the doctor wanted.
“I would know in advance and prepared…whether lab reports, whatever was required, and give them (doctors) answers, and we had a very good relationship in the wards– doctor, patients, nurses.”
“It was a disciplined operation”.
She admitted being a bit strict, and one of the things she insisted on as a nurse was to never allow anyone to call her by her first name. It was either Sister Eugene or Nurse. “Not even the doctors I allowed to do that– I took that pride in my career.”
Similarly, she stressed that she showed that respect to others. “I would say, ‘Yes doctor…no, doctor…I would never say, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It was also ‘Yes matron’, ‘Yes Sister”. “That is why I earned respect also.”
“Back in the day we had great respect for our uniform, our code of dress… and at that time we wore distinct and specific colours, caps, aprons and our uniforms were well- made and they were done at the hospital, and according to our statuses, we changed our belts.”
Nurse Eugene also spent a significant amount of time in the children’s ward. It was all rewarding and she summed it up thoughtfully.
“If I had to live my life all over again, there are two things I would do: serve Jesus and do nursing…I just love nursing and I wish that those who have chosen this career would so love it…Look at the hands God has given them, they are blessed hands. When you can rub somebody’s back and bring comfort or give someone something to eat, those are the things that gave me satisfaction. I never liked to see people cry for pains; I would do all that I could to help them. Even if I had to call for the doctor a hundred times, I would call.”
She noted that the senior nurses would share their knowledge, but there was a strict protocol.
“As a student, I never sat at the table with my seniors…Never. We would stand when our seniors came around– yes– if we were doing something, we would stop that and go and tend to them. One of the things that remain with me is that if you did something wrong, the Ward Sister would call you in the middle of the ward and she would tell you off in fine style– either you cried or not– but nobody knew or heard when she would discipline you.”
“Yes, I always wanted to know more about my job and about the sciences involving nursing. The young nurses would have their dictionaries and they would enquire from their seniors any questions they would have about their duties and tasks. The doctors would sometimes question the nurses, too. It was a great learning environment.”
“Today, I am sharing that same knowledge with my nurse- trainees. I will continue to give what I have; continue to help students to learn, to practice what is right and most of all, to maintain discipline.”
She related that someone she recently spoke with who is a nurse and who resides overseas praised the rigourous and intense training nurses receive in Guyana.
“It is far better than the ones overseas, and I have heard it from a lot of people. That is my encouragement…that whatever we are doing, it is benefitting people in a general sense. My career has been challenging and rewarding. I love nursing.”
Nursing, she said, is an art– because “you have to know how to turn the patient to promote comfort; how to position the patient to promote comfort; how to put the food in the mouth for the patients to eat and not choke; how to get that patient out of the bed; how to bathe that patient without causing anything to happen.”
She showered praise on the Ministry of Health for selecting her to be a nurse and insists she owes the entity a debt of gratitude.
Today, Sister Eugene is moulding nurses, since 1987 she has been at the N/A Nursing School. The mother of two, is also very active in her church and works with the children there during a TV programme ‘Children’s Bible Hour’. She is the Family Life Educator and works with the Sunday School department.
Nursing, she said, has afforded her the opportunity to be a very resourceful person in her church and community.
“I like to talk with and encourage people and help them to make the right choices.”
As a nurse, she is not in agreement with getting married too quickly.
“As much as marriage is nice, it can come into conflict with the intense studies while training for nursing. For nursing, you really have to study hard, because nursing is becoming more and more scientific, and you have to do far more research…so nursing is not like long ago, it has changed immensely.”
Sister Eugene made a call for more males in the profession, since it offers a variety of rewarding opportunities in areas such as Anesthesia, Critical Care Nursing, Intensive Care nursing, and “as a nurse you can have your Diploma in Nursing Education as well as your Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree and PhD”.
“You can become a Ward Sister, a Matron, a Senior Sister or Chief Nurse, Chief Nursing Officer for the country, a Health Visitor, Senior Health Visitor, Public Health Nurse. There are so many things you can do or pursue.”
Her satisfaction today?
“Seeing my students come back and being somebody with dignity, pride, with additional qualifications to their names. I just feel good…it blesses my heart and that encourages me that my labour is not in vain. Some will return to say thanks while some will not bother to, but overall it gives me pleasure to see students with whom I was a part of their lives, successful- I say a part of, because other tutors had to work with them too. We share in their success.”
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