Nurses on Saba gathered at the Wesleyan Holiness Church for a church service on Wednesday morning, May 12 on the occasion of International Nurses Day 2021. Speakers Commissioner of Public Health Rolando Wilson, Director of the Saba Health Care Foundation (SHCF) Judith Meijer, Chairman of the SHCF Supervisory Board Sydney Sorton commended and thanked the nurses for their dedication and vital contribution to society.
The Nurses Day service started with an entrance procession song as the nurses, including several retired nurses, entered the church, followed by an opening prayer by Pastor Isaiah Liburd, an opening song, the Scripture reading by nurse Joyce Chichester-Smith and the reading of poems by nurses Sharen Johnson, Aleya Abraham, Sislene Matthew, Lillian Leverock and Aedy Levenstone.
After a minute of silence for nurses throughout the world who lost their lives, Pastor Vernon Liburd spoke of the nurses’ work as a labor of love and a noble profession. “Your responsibility is awesome. Your service well-valued. You sacrifice for others, always in a selfless manner.” But, he warned, everyone has their limitations, even nurses. “You are not super human. You cannot fix everyone. You are just human, and you need to take good care of yourselves, otherwise you can’t take care of others.” Pastor Liburd thanked Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, who was present at the church service, for his leadership during the pandemic.
Commissioner Wilson acknowledged nurses, but also doctors, ambulance drivers and all other medical staff for their outstanding and dedicated service to the community. “We acknowledge the fact that you are all part of the frontline workers who leave their homes and families every day to provide care and comfort to patients. Your are the ears, eyes, hands and feet for those that cannot help themselves.”
According to Wilson, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the important role that nurses play in treating the sick. “The strain of the job has proven to be intense and has tested you more than you would like, but through it all, you have proven to be true warriors. Nurses are the heart of healthcare. Nursing is a true calling and a most honorable profession. At some point each of us has been touched by you, and so we salute you, we honor you and we celebrate you,” he said.
SHCF Director Meijer said that traditionally, nursing has been a women’s job, and that this was still the case until just recently on Saba and other islands in the region. “When I had my introduction meetings with each employee of our organization, several of you told me that when they had to think about their professional life, they did not have much to choose from, besides cleaning, nursing or teaching. Because nursing was a job, done by women, society tended to take their work for granted. Today, in 2021, nursing is still a job, still dominated by women, and it has become a profession, a job title to be proud of.”
Meijer mentioned nurse Thelma Polak, who was born on Saba and murdered in 1943 by the Nazis during World War II because she was Jewish. Thelma was the doctor of a doctor who worked on Saba about 100 years ago. During the war, Thelma was a nurse at a hospital for mentally and physically handicapped people in the Netherlands. According to the story, Thelma volunteered to accompany the patients when the Germans came to imprison and kill them.
Looking back at 2020, Meijer said that it was a hard year for everyone, a year with many challenges and uncertainties. “You were brave and dealt with them. 2020 as also the year in which people realized the important of your work. We hope that this awareness and appreciation will stay after COVID-19.”
SHCF Chairman Sorton thanked the nurses for their hard work, especially during the pandemic. “Some of you even went into quarantine in order for healthcare to continue during the corona crisis.”