Sister Daniels nurses her passion

Sister Abigail Daniels of Parow clinic.

Empathy and compassion are the fundamental traits of a good nurse, says Abigail Daniels, manager at Parow clinic for past the 14 years.

Ms Daniels grew up Ravensmead and completed her matric at Belhar Senior Secondary. Following that she enrolled at UWC in 1991 to complete a teaching degree.

“I decided in 1992 that teaching was not a career path that I wanted to pursue, due to the change in the educational system and country at the time,” she said.

A chance encounter with a nursing student in the student centre at UWC led Ms Daniels toward her “true passion” — nursing.

Ms Daniels was no stranger to the nursing fraternity, as both her father, Kenneth da Silva, and her mother, Jeannetta, were nurses who met while training, at the old Somerset West Hospital. The next year, Ms Daniels changed her course and began studying nursing. “After two years, I went on a break and worked as a staff nurse at Louis Leipoldt Hospital. After working there for several years, I went back to UWC to complete my degree and, in 2001, I graduated and started working as a professional nurse at Tygerberg Hospital.”

She worked in ICU and saw a lot of trauma cases.

“I had to care for patients that were involved in motor car accidents. It’s difficult to see people in pain, but my duty is to be strong for the family of the patient. It’s very overwhelming for them to see their loved one hooked up to machines and attached to tubes,” she said.

She said her job required a lot of patience, care and the ability to put others’ needs first.

She said most patients at the clinic did not have medical aid. A small percentage did, but their savings had been depleted. “We also help many foreign nationals who come from the Congo, Ethiopia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Somalia.”

The clinic also offers family planning, basic ante-natal care, HIV/Aids testing, counselling and treatment, help with fertility issues and pap smears.

“We also offer abortions and emergency contraception. We also encourage women to ask their partners to get sterilised, if needed, and also to take the HPV injection which prevents cervical cancer.”

She said the clinic and the day hospital had seen more than 110 000 people since August last year.

“Close to 50% of our patients are women, 20% are children and 30% are men,” she said.

Ms Daniel urges women to have pap smears done at least every 10 years or when stipulated by a GP.

She said the clinic usually had an influx of teenagers seeking abortion after the June and December school holidays.

“The youth are being told to practise safe sex, but it seems that the message is not completely filtering through to them. There is this misconception that if you have sex only once or if it only lasts few a few minutes you won’t get pregnant. That is false and needs to change.

“Parents need to speak openly to their children about sex and make sure they are properly supervised during the long school holidays.”

The clinic also needs volunteer interpreters to assist foreign nationals.

“We need an independent interpreter who can speak French to come and assist us. We feel that many of our female clients are not able to express their needs to us properly due to the language barrier,” she said.

Ms Daniels encouraged women to speak up for themselves. “I was very shy when I was younger, and I had to learn to speak up for myself because I realised nobody else was going to do it for me. I believe nobody can get us down. Nothing in life is perfect, and we have to make the best of it and believe in ourselves.” She is the mother of two boys, aged 9 and 16, and said it was important for her to teach them to respect women.