Some of the most interesting stories to come out of CURE Zambia are those of our dedicated and diligent staff. Recently, I sat down with Judy Obison, CURE Zambia’s hard working matron. I took particular interest in Mrs. Obison’s story because my mother is also a nurse, so I have a soft spot for women who practice nursing.
Judy Obison didn’t always want to be a nurse. “Originally, I wanted to be an engineer, but I knew that I would have to support myself to pay for the tuition.” Judy originally attended a vocational school where she got her Licensed Practical Nursing diploma, but still had the intention of becoming an engineer even though she developed a liking for the nursing profession. Judy decided to go to the US to complete her education, but after conferring with some of her relatives, Judy thought it best to continue her education in nursing. “I knew that if I got my engineering degree, I probably wouldn’t end up working as an engineer,” she said, “what’s more, most of the people I had met who were LPNs had been educated in other fields, so I thought I might as well continue in nursing.” Judy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts.
Some years later, after having worked in the US for a number of years and having two children, Judy and her husband made the move back to Zambia. When she arrived in Zambia, she quickly got bored living as a housewife and wanted to get back to work. This is when her brother-in-law came to her and told her of a new hospital called CURE Zambia. “My brother-in-law said that I should send an application to this ‘new American hospital.’ I was excited to go and see what all the fuss was about!” Judy exclaimed. Judy rushed to the hospital and asked if she could get a tour of the facilities. She liked what she saw. “Everything was new and clean and all the equipment was up-to-date; I knew immediately that I wanted to work there.”
But things were not to go so smoothly. Judy ran into problems getting her nursing license from the General Nursing Council of Zambia. She noticed that it was difficult for foreign-educated Zambian nurses to get their licenses from the GNC. “This was incredibly frustrating because as a Zambian, I wanted to come back to my country and help improve the system, yet I was being deterred at every corner,” said Judy. In the end, it took Judy over a year to get her license from the GNC. After all that work she finally started work at CURE Zambia in January 2010.
Judy told me that she enjoys her work here at CURE Zambia and has also seen her employment with the hospital as an education. “When I was working in the US I mostly treated adults,” said Judy, “so pediatric care has been an eye opener.” Judy explained to me that dealing with the socio-economic issues surrounding patients and their families has been vastly different from the situations in the US. “We as CURE Zambia nursing staff have to educate parents on how to find resources for their sick children in the community, because not every village or town has a pharmacy or clinic,” explained Obison. Another challenge facing nurses in Zambia is the shortage of nurses. Some hospitals have 20 patients to 1 nurse! “I think nurses here need to be exposed to how other nurses practice,” said Judy, “this is why CURE Zambia has started the Nurse Exchange Program. It’s important that our nurses see that there are different and, sometimes, better ways to practice nursing.”
There are many things that Judy enjoys about working at CURE. “I love the care that we provide at CURE Zambia. We try our best to give hope to the patients and their parents. What I hate the most is that we are not able to help our patients as much as we like beyond the fence of CURE Zambia.”
After Judy spends what seems like endless hours managing the nursing staff at CURE Zambia, she likes to spend her spare time relaxing with her three young children and her husband, Jeffrey.
Finally, I asked Judy what she liked most about working at CURE Zambia, and she told me something that I found truly moving. “The vision that we have is really refreshing. We are giving the care to the needy and we are truly touching a lot of lives.”