ASSISTANT Director of Nursing Services at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Sister Noshella Lalckecharan, completed 44 years of unbroken service within the nursing profession two weeks ago, on March 15. And according to her, there has never been a dull moment throughout that time.
She now enjoys the dual distinction of being one of the most senior nurses, and one of the longest serving staff members at the institution.
On her special day, the Sunday Pepperpot caught up with Sister Lalcky, as she is fondly called, and took a brief trip down memory lane as she smilingly reminisced what was, for her, a most rewarding and gratifying experience.
Asked how she felt on achieving that special milestone, Sister Lalcky replied with a sparkle in her eyes and a shy but dignified smile, “Today is a very proud day for me. I like what I am doing; and for as long as God gives me health and strength, I will continue nursing, if given the chance.
“But yet I am not shouting it out,” she continued. “I did not tell anybody, not even my children; but as I signed the time book this morning, I looked at the date and said to a staff next to me, ‘Today is my 44th anniversary’.”
“You mean you have been married for 44 years, Sister Lalcky?” was the nurse’s spontaneous response; and Sister Lalcky, now a widow, calmy responded, “No, it’s not my wedding anniversary. What I mean is that I have been married to my job for 44 years.”
That sparked some interest, and word quickly went around, reaching the Sunday Chronicle as well.
“As a young girl growing up, I wanted to become a nurse. Yes, it was always my ambition to enter the nursing profession, and that thing motivated me. And so, while yet at primary school, I would attend Red Cross classes, and that was (how) my first exposure began,” she recalled.
She said she later served at the Prasad Hospital as a nurse aide for one year.
Noshella, who hailed from Mahaica, East Coast Demerara, says she came from humble beginnings. Her father, Lalckecharan, was a tailor and barber; and her mother, Sookdiah, was a housewife who also tended their cash crop farm. Her parents were always supportive of her academic and professional goals.
She initially attended the Canadian Missionary Primary (an Anglican school) and later moved on to the Hindu College at Mahaica, from whence she graduated in 1964. “It was a struggle to send me to high school,” she recalls, “but my parents were always supportive of me, and so I was the only sibling in the family who got a chance to attend high school.”
She recalls having to get out of bed early in the mornings to catch the train that would take her to school, but she said she did it with pride, commitment, and purpose, because she knew she had to do well so in order to become the nurse she had always dreamed of becoming.
After graduating from secondary school, she applied to the Georgetown Public Hospital to do the Registered Nursing (RN) Programme which was of three years’ duration. And while awaiting a response from the hospital, she accepted a temporary job as a teacher.
Sister Lalcky can still vividly recall her excitement the day she received a letter informing her that she had been accepted into the nursing programme and was required to begin training on March 15, 1969 – a few weeks before her 21st birthday.
In September 1972, at the end of three years, she wrote and passed her final exams. Her initial placement was in the Maternity Ward doing midwifery, then at the Out-Patient Department; and by July 1973, she was sent to the Operating Room, for which she developed a keen liking.
In the early 80s, she was deployed to work at the Suddie Hospital; and for one year, she worked in the Male Surgical Ward and was responsible for the operating theatre there as well, later returning to PHG to take up similar duties.
Ironically, as a young girl, she had a morbid fear of blood, and was afraid to see anyone bleed. Her father would sometimes ask her, “How come you want to become a nurse and when you see people get cut yuh fainting?” But in time she overcame the phobia to the extent that, having settled in, she spent more time working in operating theatres than in any other department.
“It was so amazing that when I went to the theatre I never ever fainted on a case, and I had to stay there until the case was finished, and sometimes that could take 5 to 6 hours.”
Perhaps her experience at one day literally being made to touch the beating heart of a child during an open heart surgery caused her to garner more strength and courage. She continued working in the operating theatres for the next several years; and by 1996, was promoted to the position of Theatre Supervisor, holding that portfolio until 2001.
With that change, she was transferred to the Administrative Office to function as Assistant Director of Nursing – her present occupation. She also has a part-time position as Clinical Supervisor on an Operating Room (OR) Technician programme currently being conducted at the GPHC.
While agreeing that every aspect of nursing care is important, Sister Lalcky still feels that her years of working in and supervising the operating theatres were best spent. She was, one day, even made to take the local media on a tour of the theatres at the Ambulatory Care Unit of the GPHC. It was something for which she has a passion, and she recalls the joy of working along with students — helping both medical and nursing students. She has worked along with a number of surgeons as well – from general surgeons to gynaecologists to orthodaedic surgeons; and for her it was always a learning experience.
She admits missing the theatre a lot after leaving there, but even though very busy with clerical and administrative duties, she still makes the time to advance herself academically. From 2005 to 2007, she pursued studies at the University of Guyana; and at age 57, graduated with a BSc Nursing degree. And so, from being brought up in a home where she was the only one attending high school, today, Sister Lalcky comes from a home where four out of five persons (including her late husband) attended university and graduated.
“So I tell my younger colleagues that nothing is impossible. Once you make up your mind to achieve something, you will get it. But it calls for hard work and invariably sacrifices – deferred gratification or sacrifice in the furtherance of an end.”
Sadly, she’s observed that a lot of younger nurses in the profession are not taking on the challenge of upgrading their skills academically. Her advice to the young nurses in the profession is: Be dedicated to the job; be honest – honest in giving medication; providing services for the patients; and journaling these, so as to have a continuity of care. Be compassionate towards the patients, and have respect for people. Learn the basic theatre principles – the preparation of the room; the way you dress; the way you carry yourself generally; and always have a thirst for knowledge.
“You have to be committed to what you’re doing, and you have to like your job. I think if you have that caring attitude and love for the job, it makes it easier for you,” she concluded.