Nationality

Cameroon

Education

Bachelor’s Degree in Advance Nursing, University Center for Health Science, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Languages

English, French

With the advent of HIV and AIDS, many families, including mine, have been affected. As a nurse, it was difficult to see the suffering of infected people and their families: They were neglected, felt abandoned and stigmatized. Even healthcare professionals were so afraid to go near AIDS patients because there was little knowledge of the disease and how one could be infected.

I happened to be one of the first nurses at Bamenda in Northwest Cameroon to undergo training on HIV and AIDS counseling. I wanted to acquire more knowledge on caring for the infected and the affected. I understood that AIDS patients needed to feel loved. They also needed help to resolve family conflicts that arise after diagnosis of infection. That was my role as a consultant for the National Technical Group which was fighting the disease in Cameroon. I also participated in the establishment of local AIDS committees in villages.

Nursing for me is not just a job, it is a calling which I felt ever since I was 13 years old and gave my first blood donation to save a mate’s life. By nature, I am always drawn to the most vulnerable and the under privileged. They are the ones who need you the most.

Before joining the United Nations, I worked in Cameroon for 25 years in various capacities in the field of nursing. I started as State Registered Nurse in a provincial hospital and went through various positions before moving on to become a Senior Nursing Officer.

With this experience, I felt the need to extend my services and expertise to people in other countries, so I applied for the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme. I was drawn to the Organization’s humanitarian work.

My first assignment as a UNV was with the Medical Clinic in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone in 2005. I was later appointed the Head Nurse of the Clinic in January 2006, and was assigned administrative tasks. Eighteen months later, I applied for a professional position and transferred to the Medical Service of the United Nations Operations in Cote D’Ivoire.

The United Nations Medical Service provides health services to the Organization’s staff. Securing the health of its personnel is a top priority. We take this very seriously, and try to render quality care. As peacekeeping missions are usually in places where there may be a lack of adequate medical facilities, we put in place easily accessible and ready-to-function facilities.

I am based in the Abidjan Clinic, one of three clinics in the Mission. By United Nations categorization, it is a level 1+ clinic, meaning that it is close to the level of a hospital facility. It has an operating theater, x-ray and dental units. We provide a 24-hour service, with about 120-180 personnel visiting each week for consultation. We provide the first line of care and refer patients to higher level hospitals, if necessary.

As Chief Nurse, it is my responsibility to ensure that the care we provide is acceptable to our personnel. The bulk of my work has to do with administration. I am also involved in arranging medical evacuations, movement of personnel and deployment of medical staff. In addition, I provide counseling for voluntary HIV testing. Sometimes, I accompany patients with serious conditions, who are referred to a higher level hospital in another country or are being repatriated.

What I find interesting about the position is the wider scope of experience I get. It gives me inside knowledge of the policies and rules of the Organization, and the opportunity to be innovative and creative.

It can also be challenging as your colleagues depend on you for their health needs. Not long after I assumed the position, we lost a staff member we had referred to another hospital. It was very difficult to participate in the investigation on possible negligence on the part of the Medical Service.

We are also providing care in a multicultural environment with different religious beliefs. We try as much as possible to respect that by striking a delicate balance between cultural differences and ensuring that staff members get timely care.

For me, it has been fascinating and a very rewarding experience working in United Nations peacekeeping missions. I would advise prospective applicants to make sure they acquire the necessary educational qualification and professional skills – working with the Organization is highly competitive.

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