Samoa's longest serving nurse looks back on 47-year journey

Samoa’s longest serving nurse and midwife has recounted the challenges she’s faced over her 40-plus years of service as well as the joy that came with saving lives.

The personal testimony by 71-year-old Rome Burns on Wednesday coincided with the global celebration of International Nurses Day on the 12th of May every year.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Mrs Burns said working as a midwife and a nurse was hard and challenging but had its joys when lives are saved. 

"It is such a hardest job to deal with in our everyday life, dealing with people's life by taking care and look after them, making sure we have provided the best service to our people, as for us our job is day and night working tirelessly in making sure we deliver the best service for our people,” she said.

And the hurdles were numerous according to the veteran midwife and nurse, who used as an example the challenges of saving both an expectant mother and her baby.

"In this job, we have faced many difficulties, especially in dealing with the people when they come into the hospitals for treatment, when it comes to pregnant women and their babies.

“At that time we were looking at saving two lives and this is our job, making sure that they are both delivered safe and sound, to us it is something that we look forward to everyday welcoming new lives, their lives are in our hands.”

But the challenges are not only patient-related as the nurses have also been the victims of abuse over the years, says Mrs Burns, who recalled instances when she and her colleagues were also called names and abused.

"Everyday we face many actions from the people and patients, the complaints, pointing fingers and also abusive words they are using when we are at work and worst they even take us to court, we have seen it.

“But today we are in the world of understanding (malamalama Samoa) knowing the exact thing to do that is respect and manners and to resolve things in a peaceful way.”

The failure of pregnant mothers not attending antenatal clinics and only seeking medical attention when faced with problems was also highlighted as a major challenge for midwives and nurses.

"Other difficulties are when it comes to pregnant mothers in terms of not having their usual check ups but they only come in when there's a problem.

“But we strongly advised them to have their normal check up every month because when they rush in, we have to leave other patients and focus on that one so we encourage our people it is our job together in helping out for a healthy Samoa.”

Mrs Burns entered nursing school in 1971 and graduated three years later as a nurse in 1974. After working as a nurse for seven years she went back to nurse school to train to become a midwife and graduated in 1983. 

She has worked as a nurse and midwife since her graduation in 1983 at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital at Moto’otua up until today.

Looking back at her journey over the last 47 years, Mrs Burns said she is thankful to God for continuing to give her strength to work as a nurse and midwife.

"To me personally, I am thankful to the Lord for giving us the strength to deal with our work, it's not an easy job but through his help we can not overcome the busy schedule, the delivering, the services we offer to our patients even though people are pointing fingers at us,” she said. 

“But we are just doing our jobs, for that is a well appreciated job, well done to all the midwives and nurses who have and are serving Samoa in the past years and up till now. "For that thank you for your service and time for Samoa, we could not overcome this without the support of everyone and the community.”

Samoa Nurses Association President Solialofi Papalii told the Samoa Observer last week that the International Nurses Day celebration in Samoa will be low-key this year due to the involvement of the medical fraternity in the caretaker Government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout programme.

"No formal celebration for this year, even the usual activities we have back in the days we are not having it this time as we all know that the vaccination roll out for the people has started and nurses are part of it and even for quarantine sites we have been working in making sure the protection of our people is in safe condition,” she said.

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