eMalahleni retired nurses in fight to promote ‘nursing passion’

They were formed by the desire to help themselves as they continue to get older, are lonesome and neglected.


In the nursing profession, there is something called ‘nursing passion’, which comes from the calling that you first have when joining the field, to care for people at their most vulnerable moments on hospital beds.

When people survive from those beds and get back home to recover it is because of the role that ‘nursing passion’ had played while they were being treated.

But then the increase in the lack of ‘nursing passion’ is to blame for the collapse of the entire system of giving care to patients in the public sector.

A structure called the ‘Retired Healthcare Workers’ from the eMalahleni area of Mpumalanga made up of 92 former nurses who worked in the area’s hospital and clinics starting from the 1970s to atleast 2011 is looking at the problem with another eye.

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Of the 92 members, they have 7 male former nurses and the rest are female – the eldest of them began being a nurse in 1971 until her retirement in the 1990s.

The veterans formed the structure in order to first assist themselves after their continued witnessing the mistreatment – in public hospitals – of those who once served the system with passion while they were themselves sick and getting frail due to old age.

In some cases they would find their former colleagues in deserted conditions in their homes – some have lost their husbands and children, either due to death or themselves the kids going to form their own families.

eMalahleni retired nurses in fight to promote 'nursing passion'

Treasurer Brenda Mashifane said the structure was formed by the desire to practice ‘nursing passion’ on themselves – coming to visit each other, washing the blankets and clothes of those members who’d be sick while making sure also there is proper food and they are comfortable as veteran nurses.

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Since they were formed in 2014 the elders would use the Mandela Day in July to visit various old age homes, hospitals, prisons and other centres to volunteer in assisting officials treat the sick.

She said they subscribe to the teachings of Florence Nightingale, the British founder of the global model of professional nursing who played an impressive part during the Crimean War, treating wounded soldiers using a candle during the night in the 1800s.

Few weeks ago the Retired Healthcare Workers celebrated the International Nurses Day anniversary at the Mthimkhulu Old Age Home in the eMalahleni area.

The International Nurses Day is the day of 12 May 1820 when Nightingale was born. It is celebrated in her honour, being the symbol of what professional nursing should look like.

Mashifane said nursing “is a calling which only ends at death” and that’s what the candlelight or lamp signifies when it is being turned off when a nurse passes away.

She said they want the system to recognise retired nurses, particularly when they are admitted in the public hospitals but then she also said they are not going to stand there and complain without doing something for themselves.

eMalahleni retired nurses in fight to promote 'nursing passion'

RHW treasurer Sr Brenda Mashifane and fellow member Sr Connie Kente

They have now invested with Old Mutual and FNB to assist members of the Retired Healthcare Workers with funeral costs “so that we are buried with dignity”.

“The organisation must continue for many years to come and must cater for all retired nurses in the future and must be seen as an organisation that assists in upholding the traditional nursing practice of Florence Nightingale”.

She said the problem today was that the high unemployment rate gave young people no option but to pursue any career in order to get themselves working and that was also to blame for the collapse of the entire system of taking care for patients in the public sector.

“During our time you were not a nurse because you wanted employment. It was a calling. This thing was with you when you were born and you had to do it. It’s a calling. You already knew you’d be a nurse. But today it’s a different story. It’s about the salary and when I will ‘knock off’,” said Mashifane who is 64 years old.

“The organisation aims to keep the ethics and values of nursing alive through their continuing to play a role in their community even after retirement,” she added.

(edited by ZK) 

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