1 December 2017

Namibia: Walvis Bay's Florence Nightingale

A retired nurse of Walvis Bay has embarked on a mission to help promote healthcare and prevent diseases in Namibia.

Seventy-year-old Hillie de Koker started her nursing career in 1967 at Walvis Bay and later moved to South Africa after marriage. De Koker, who has 50 years' experience in nursing, returned to Namibia permanently earlier this year.

Upon her return, she realised the need in communities to have caregivers nursing the elderly, sick, mentally ill, physically handicapped as well as those living with HIV-AIDS.

She decided to start the D'Expert Health Care Centre in June this year.

"I got a house at Walvis Bay and started recruiting young people who had nothing to do. I found young people of different ages, including, those who could not complete their secondary education, as well as those with a passion for nursing but never had a chance to go for tertiary education," she said of her two-month course.

Older people also enrolled to get experience on how to take care of their own families.

Some of her students include those working in fishing factories who dream of leaving the sector for nursing. They usually start classes straight after work.

The nursing assistant course that De Koker offers provides trainees with the necessary knowledge and practical techniques for caregiving. Assistants work under the supervision of an enrolled or registered nurse within the applicable scope of practice.

"Our goal is to work in collaboration with other healthcare organisations such as hospitals, nursing homes, home nursing services, mental and physical disabled institutes by providing them qualified nursing assistants.

"Therefore, we empower the underprivileged, motivate those who seek developmental skills and render quality service to the community through our action of providing this ancillary healthcare course," De Koker explained.

De Koker currently trains 20 people per session, one session in the morning and another in the afternoon five days a week.

She said it would have been possible to train more if a bigger place was available.

"I just use my house for training. It is not big enough to train more than 20 people per session. Many young people come to seek for places, but unfortunately, only 20 places are available. I would love to have a bigger place and eventually take in old people that can be taken care of here," she said.

She encouraged young people to start thinking about taking up a career in nursing, adding that most of them had discovered it was their passion after training.

She is also happy that more men are enrolling for the course and do not think it is only for women.

Geraldo Stephanus (22), a student nurse, says he has already learned a lot this month.

"I am satisfied with the course because I have found my direction in life. Sometimes you don't know what your purpose is until you try something. I now have an idea of what to do in certain cases," he said.

"I am glad to have learnt about diseases, especially those that afflict the elderly and people who are in bed or wheelchairs because of accidents.

"I recently got a job to take care of an MVA patient and one that involves bathing and taking care of elders. I am eager to learn even more and eventually pursue a career in nursing," said Ivondia Ujaha.

The centre has already trained 271 caregivers, with nine currently employed permanently at Ondangwa and Rundu private hospitals and private homes.

"We have a special uniform we bought in South Africa. These uniforms are different from nurses' uniforms because the trainees are not nurses.

"They are caregivers. This uniform is unique because it is a friendly uniform. It means that they can be identified as caregivers," said De Koker.

Apart from a registration fee of N$400, students pay N$800 per month for two months of training.

Trainees are also sent for job attachments in different parts of the country including Outapi, Ondangwa, Rundu, Onaena, Ongwediva, Rehoboth and Lüderitz, among others.

At the end of the two months' course, assistants can take and chart a patient's temperature, monitor pulse and respiration.

They can also handle a patient in bed by positioning, bathing, lifting and turning, care of pressure areas, use of a bedpan, prepare meals and feed the patients.

They are also trained in first aid.

Some classes are also offered in Windhoek. The course is registered and recognised by the Namibian government.

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