While Sister Brown never chose nursing, nursing chose her.
“I started nursing in 1983. I never really wanted to be a nurse. I always wanted to be an artist.”
Sister Brown has worked in the Oncology ward at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital for the past 24 years. She was nominated for the Cecilia Makiwane Nursing Award during her tenure at the hospital, for her excellent and loyal service.
Her start in the G1 Oncology ward was not an easy one. Sister Brown studied nursing at Mayday Hospital in Croydon in the UK, where she worked in palliative care with the elderly. She says that seeing an elderly person at the end of their life is very different to seeing a child who will not recover from cancer. Initially she struggled immensely with the heartbreak she faced in the ward every day. She says: “I did not know how long I would last here.”
Sister Brown’s background in palliative care paved the road to her placement in the Oncology ward at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She found an amazing mentor in Helen Loutz, a fellow nurse at the hospital. Despite a difficult start, Sister Brown has grown to love her post. Seeing children get better is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. Sister Brown is known for her caring disposition, especially with patients’ parents, who she says need to be handled with incredible compassion and understanding.
Looking back at the challenges she’s faced in the ward, Sister Brown explains that working very long shifts with very sick children is part of the job. However, she does find the lack of facilities for nursing staff in the ward as somewhat of a challenge as the Oncology ward is separate to the main hospital and does not have a break room. If she is needed while on a lunch break, another nurse has to leave the ward to find her. With the new expansion project, the nursing staff are very excited and thankful to finally have a break room attached to the ward.
When asked about the highlights of her career so far, Sister Brown humbly states that the biggest highlight was (and remains) being able to provide parents with the support they need to get through this difficult diagnosis. She says: “It’s a difficult journey that parents follow but they don’t walk it alone. We join them and walk this road with them. Parents coming into the ward for the first time go through a process of shifting their mindsets to see the nursing staff as caregivers, not just for their sick child, but for them as well. We are here to help them through this as much as we are here to care for their child. We do our absolute best and there are always hiccups along the way, but being here to build this relationship of trust and compassion with all parents coming through the ward is so important to me.”
Sister Brown is just one example of the remarkable group of caregivers that make up the staff in the hospital’s Oncology ward. While she is an outstanding nurse, her attitude is echoed is by the nursing staff that work with her. This is a ward focused on providing care beyond what is listed in the general nursing handbook.