The ongoing pandemic has brought to the fore the crucial and very important role that nurses play in our society. And like Nurse Jordan tells us, it is a calling that takes a lot of hard-work and perseverance. Our Ugandan correspondent Martha Nalukenge caught up with Cotilda Nanjeru, a nurse in her home country of Uganda, as she discusses on what it means to be a nurse in these tough times, her challenges and what the future holds for her.
“My Profession is a calling that has to be facilitated by persistence, patience, love and courage. No time to waste and no days off. Every patient looks at you as their magic sickness healer but the bitter reality hits like a hard rock in a storm. However much I love to help my patients, there is a fee they must pay. The current pandemic has brought about, among many other issues, a price hike on drugs. This has affected us all, nurses and patients.”
Here is Cotilda Nanjeru A.K.A Jordan Cotilda (24yrs) a nurse in one of the suburbs of Nyendo- Kitaka, an area commonly known as ‘The Ghetto’ in Masaka City. Commonly known as Nurse Jordan, she studied midwifery and worked as an intern midwife in Rakai hospital. After graduation the job hunt led her to work in a pharmacy. Working in a pharmacy and assisting on most of the clinic work opened her mind to big dreams of opening up her own drug shop. Some pharmacies have clinics thus earning them double and money has no overdose.
In Uganda, a lot of medical professionals open up their own pharmacies, clinics and drug shops as a side business to put food on the table. However some without jobs start them up as a main business.
What inspired you to open up your own drug shop because the last time I saw you, you were someone’s employee?
“In life never get comfortable with working for someone because you can either be replaced or expelled at any time. So, it’s better to create your own job rather than depending on someone else. Working for someone limits your wings to fly as you always think you can’t make it on your own”, she started off.
That’s why when she first got her job, her mind couldn’t let herself settle in a position of being employed yet she could become self-employed. The journey wasn’t a bed of roses, she admits. Time and time again she would be discouraged by the pain and challenges that come with it, but she chose to focus on achieving her set goal of starting her own drug shop.
Most people here confuse drug shops to being clinics, especially the illiterates, which is a sizeable number. It is very hard for the majority of the population to understand and differentiate the ‘medical terms’. “Some patients fear big clinics and hospitals and so they prefer and always resort to my care. Here a patient’s prescription is received and medicine is administered on time”, she explains.
You are lucky the pandemic didn’t affect you because you stayed in business and worked throughout all the seasons)
“That’s where most people get it wrong. Open or closed Covid-19 affected us all. Look at it from this angle, who are my patients? Where do they get money from? Whose businesses are closed?” she asks. This pandemic affected her drug store so much so that she had to resort to getting less expensive drugs that would suit the wallets of her patients.
“We all earn when we are all working. Remember sickness is not a seasonal illness that one saves for or prepares for its arrival. It just happens and knowing the client’s language is a victory trophy because it keeps me in business. However, treating people who are not ready to clear their bills is a challenge that can lead a drug shop into losses.”
What’s your future plan?
“My future plan is to open up my own clinic”, she responds. “By law, one can only open up a clinic if they are either a clinic officer or a doctor. Some of my colleagues have made partnerships with medical doctors and clinic officers. This has gotten them clean and valid documents to start up clinics that meet the legal standards and requirements. Being an independent nurse myself, I decided that I would go back to school and acquire the necessary academic qualifications, even if it requires me to start a new course. For my future, I’m ready to work at my level best.”
Pictures: Martha Nalukenge