Nurses are everyday superheroes that walk amongst us. There is simply nothing that a nurse cannot do. Sure, doctors get all the glory. But it’s the nurses that pull you through to the other side.
Since the days of Florence Nightingale, the foundational philosopher of modern nursing, the vocation has been among the most noble of pursuits. Her efforts to formalize nursing education led her to establish the first scientifically based nursing school – the Nightingale School of Nursing, at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1860.
20 years later, Cecilia Makiwane was born in Alice in the Eastern Cape. She went on to become the first registered professional black nurse in South Africa, in January 1908. She was also an early activist in the struggle for women’s rights and a protestor in the first anti-women’s pass campaign in 1912.
In 2002 the government introduced the Cecilia Makiwane Nurse’s Recognition Award for healthcare professionals in her honour. The awards recognize, celebrate and value nurses for their unwavering dedication and selfless commitment to the nursing profession; and for their exceptional work in improving the quality of life and the wellbeing of patients.
This year the Western Cape Department of Health has honoured the almost 13 000 nurses in its employ, showcasing 12 nurses who have been nominated for the prestigious award.
What makes 2018 so remarkable is that it coincides with the centennial birth of Albertina NontsikeleloSisulu. Albertina was a renowned activist and also a qualified nurse. Nursing appealed to the young Albertina because of the practicality of it all, which is really a trait all nurses share, pragmatism. She needed to support her family, and trainee nurses were paid to study.
Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of the Western Cape Health Department, says being able to honour both Makiwane and Sisulu this year is special.
“Albertina’s life and career prompts me to reflect on our nursing pioneers, who form the backbone of our healthcare system. They unceasingly provide health and comfort to the sick and suffering, often under immense pressure and without seeking validation. We are indebted to our nurses for their sacrifices and contribution, whose value does not go unseen.”
12 special nurses have been honoured for going above and beyond the call of duty.
They include Elizma Anthonissen, the Operational Manager of the Eye Care Clinic at Vredendal Hospital, the first nurse to manage an ophthalmology clinic in the Western Cape without a full time Ophthalmologist.
Noluthando Tibini, a Clinical Nurse Practitioner at Ruyterwacht Community Day Centre, and referred to as ‘Ma Tibini’ by patients, volunteers her services at a soup kitchen, is a member of the neighbourhood watch, facilitates basic first aid training to members of her community and supports the local orphanage.