At the age of three‚ forensic nurse Cecilia Lamola displayed traits that would see her gravitate towards a career in nursing.
Lamola’s compassion for her sick siblings and other relatives made a career in nursing a natural choice. And with brutal cases of violence against women occurring daily‚ there’s an increasing need for her skills.
Twelve years in the profession‚ it was the numerous cases of incest she had to deal with while based at the emergency wing of a Limpopo hospital that pushed Lamola to specialise in forensics at University of Free State. She qualified in forensics in 2010.
Lamola and others in the nursing profession will be celebrated globally for their tireless work on International Nurses’ Day on Saturday. May 12 was chosen to celebrate the day because it is the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
Now a forensic nurse with medical humanitarian NGO Doctors Without Borders‚ Lamola is concerned that South Africa does have enough suitably qualified nurses in the field of forensics to provide care and support to victims of both sexual and physical violence.
Her concerns stem from a 2017 study conducted by Doctors Without Borders‚ which found “critical gaps in medical and clinical forensic care for survivors of sexual violence in South Africa”.
“Sexual violence is a major problem in South Africa‚ with studies showing that up to one in four women have been raped in their lifetime.Only a small proportion of rapes – as few as 1 in 25 – are reported to the police and many survivors never access care.”
According to the report‚ comprehensive medical and forensic care is currently not widely available to survivors of sexual violence in South Africa.
“Urgent interventions are required to ensure that access to services improves‚ so that survivors of sexual violence can receive care to prevent or reduce the serious health consequences of rape‚ and pursue legal resolution if they wish to do so‚” it stated.
Based at Doctors Without Borders community centres in Rustenberg‚ in the North West‚ Lamola has her hands full dealing with victims of various crimes including sexual and physical violence as well as drunk driving.
“I have had cases were women were abused by their intimate partners. The challenge is to gather evidence carefully and correctly so that good evidence is produced.”
She is also faced with dealing with perpetrators of crime.
“Everyone is afforded the same professional treatment. The forensic nursing environment is a very sensitive one...but it aligns itself to my personality.
“I want to have a positive impact on people who are going through traumatic situations‚” Lamola said.
Paying tribute to nurses‚ KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said: “We need those nurses. They are the foundation and backbone of society in terms of health service delivery. The nurses stay longer with patients than any other healthcare worker. Nurses stay eight hours with patients‚ and then hand over to another nurse. It’s extremely important to respect and commend the work done by our nurses.”
City of Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee for health and social development‚ Dr Mpho Phalatse‚ also paid tribute to nurses.
“Due to the scarcity of healthcare workers and the resource constraints our industry has had to adapt to‚ we do not have nearly enough doctors to attend to the needs of the many patients we see in our 81 clinics in the City of Johannesburg‚” she said.
And it was nurses who stepped up and filled the gaps.
“Challenging boundaries‚ these healthcare workers consistently defy logic‚ demonstrating that if it can be taught they can learn it‚ and they can do it. They are the heartbeat of healthcare‚” said Phalatse.
Phalatse said she was aware of the difficult working conditions nurses have to contend with.
“But as we continue to work on these‚ our Florence Nightingales never cease to uphold their oath of office‚ preserving the very heart and soul of our city - its residents - in good health‚” she said.