As I reflect on the early years of my nursing career, I am thankful for my instructors, colleagues, co-workers, and the patients from whom I have learned some valuable lessons. One special person, my mother, is one of the greatest mentors of my life. As I speak of my memories of her as a nurse, I hope to share with you a small part of her professional experience in rural areas of the Philippines in the late 1970s.
After several years of working night shift at our town’s hospital, my mother took the challenging job of head nurse for the Rural Health Center in our area. On many occasions I was fortunate enough to observe her as she nursed the people in our community and her rural sector area. Her work often took her to remote and poverty stricken areas.
When she was not tending to the sick at her home-based clinic, her work took her and her team to travel from barrios to barrios (smaller, less developed towns with residents who had very little or no access to healthcare). After a day’s work, her white uniform would be streaked with dust from the rough, dusty road she had to travel.
Children, women, and men waited to be seen outside the designated building/clinic or hut. She and her team triaged, administered whatever care was needed, provided immunizations and patient education. They also visited schools to teach students about hygiene and nutrition, provide immunizations, and hand out vitamin fortified pan de sal’s (Philippine yeast rolls).
I remember being present at the clinic (I was such a well behaved child that no one minded my being around) when she stitched a bleeding wound, did a pap smear, (for patient’s privacy, I had to stay behind the closed curtains), and a talk about family planning. I learned about IUD’s long before I knew what dating was.
Sometimes her job interrupted her free time. It was not unusual for strangers to come to our house seeking medical attention. Many times my mother would be summoned in the middle of the night to delivery babies in people’s homes, faraway. She was often assisted by a mid-wife (a person with two years of training, mainly to assist a nurse or doctor during a delivery; at the present, mid-wives in the Philippines go through four years of training and carry their own delivery kit).
My mother and her team were also responsible for ensuring that those in need were provided with sanitation needs and training (such as acquiring and placement of commodes, safe non-drinking and drinking water, etc.). With very limited resources, each completed project was a cause for a celebration.
Providing internship to nursing students was also part of her job description. Nursing students from the city were sent to do their rural nursing internship with my Mom and her team. We often welcomed students to our home while they did their internship.
When my mother passed away in 1980, her dedication to her work was evident by the long procession of people who attended her funeral. As I stumble through my early years of nursing, I try not to forget the valuable lessons I learned as a child. I hope that God will continue to surround me with people who will help me keep things in the right perspective.
Rosemarie Generosa Baird, RN
Mother/Baby Unit, Riverside Regional Medical Center
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