When 79 -year- old Jacobine Mokgele made the Florence Nightingale pledge during her graduation as a nurse in 1964 she was not only doing it as a normal routine but as a real lifetime commitment to care for the sick.
And this is what she has been doing since then and even after her retirement in 1996 making her a ‘household name’ in Mochudi where she has been fulfilling her pledge.
“It is a commitment that I made and a commitment that I will stick for as long as I still have the energy. Unlike most nurses of nowadays who are just doing the job as a means of survival for me and other nurses of yesteryears it was all about giving proper care to the patients,’’ she said adding that back then nurses-patients relationships were very common because of the special bond that was formed during the care.
Born in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa in 1931, Mma Mokgele trained as a general nurse and midwife at the Baragwaneth Hospital in that country and practiced there for a few years before moving to then Bechuanaland with her husband in 1970.
Upon her arrival in the country she joined Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital in Mochudi, a health institution which she worked for until her retirement. However this did not mean the end of her career as a caregiver as she became one of the first retired nurses to introduce home-based care in the Kgatleng district.
Caring in the home
“During that time many people were living and dying of HIV/AIDS and hospitals were overflowing with patients with some being turned away as there was no space to accommodate them. This then resulted in families and relatives shouldering the burden of care giving despite the fact that they were not trained to do,’’ she said.
It was then that they decided to close the gap and introduce home-based care where they moved from household to household teaching people how to take care of their loved ones.
“The idea was to create an environment that was almost close to hospitals and to empower the care givers by teaching them how best to provide the care and making those sick feeling loved and well taken care,’’ explained Mma Mokgele or JR as she is commonly known in Mochudi.
She however said the home-based care was not confined to people living HIV though they were top on the list.
“It was all about taking care of the sick and even teaching new mothers how to take care of their babies. However the home based care programme was eventually discontinued in Mochudi but that did not stop me from giving the love and care to the people because I believe it is what I was called to do,’’ she said.
Mma Mokgele who is an active member of the Botswana Retired Nurses Society is still actively involved in the organization with a project in the pipeline in the Kgatleng district which will see them putting up a structure where people can call in for care.
“ I am failing to resist care giving and if I was offered a job as a nurse in any nearby clinic I would gladly accept it,’’ she said revealing that she was offered a job in Gaborone but turned it down because of the distance considering her age and the fact that she would have to commute everyday.
Asked to comment on the nurses of nowadays and the health sector in general, Mma Mokgele looked down and shook her head before saying, “I did nursing and have been taking care of people for years because it is something that I love to do and do with passion. It had nothing to do with money because the money was even attractive. But what we are having now is people joining nursing so they can be employed not because they care for people, this in the end compromises the care giving.”