The United Nations Public Service Day celebrates public servants’ contribution to sustainable development. The UN Public Service Day intends to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.
UNIC Windhoek interviewed Ms. Julien Coetzee, a Namibian woman who has spent her life in public service.
Ms. Coetzee, a hardworking mother of two, a nurse at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Hospital in Rehoboth. A 13-year veteran of the health care industry. Ms. Coetzee works five days a week, with her shifts varying between 12 hours and 5 hours a day. She provides assistance and treatment to patients in the general ward of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Hospital where she enjoys the positive working environment and camaraderie shared by all the staff. This supportive atmosphere is essential to patient care, since improving a patient’s condition involves more than just medical treatment. Ms. Coetzee believe that a nurse can alleviate a patient’s suffering by “attending to them with a smile on their face.”
She takes great pride in her work, as she is passionate and serious about nursing. “There must also be people like us in the world to take care of sick people and to treat them, and to care for them. Sometimes, they don’t have families to take care of them, then we have to attend to those people wellbeing,” she says. She regards a patient’s progress to health as the most important measurement of success in her profession, mentioning that the highlight of her day is “to see patients in their efforts to get better and really reducing their risk of illness progression.”
One of the biggest challenges faced by St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Hospital as well as other public health institutions in providing optimal healthcare is the shortage of nurses. “Really, we are understaffed. Sometimes there are only two nurses to ratio of 40 to 45 patients. With the intake of approximately three or four nurses we would be able to all patients ensuring that they get the necessary treatment.” She also recognizes the lack of more advanced medical equipment is a hindrance to provide the optimal care that patients deserve. Technological advancement of this nature would ensure that patients with more serious conditions will be treated locally in Rehoboth instead of being referred to Windhoek.
Furthermore, Ms. Coetzee thinks that St. Mary’s would benefit from more doctors and specialists stationed in Rehoboth so that equitable treatment is available to the community. This will bring Rehoboth one step closer to achieving universal health coverage, a vital aspect of the third Sustainable Development Goal, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”
Ms. Coetzee recommends that the hospital staff receive state-sponsored workshops and weekly in-service training to improve professional and interpersonal skills, since not all nurses have the same impact when they attend to the patients. She feels this would encourage her fellow nurses to take initiative, think on their feet and actively collaborate with one another on a daily basis to boost productivity and efficiency.
Regarding the interactions she has had with patients and their relatives, Ms. Coetzee has had her fair share of the good and bad. She recalls that relatives of some patients can be quite impatient. “Say for instance when they come and you are attending to somebody else they think that their family is more important than the other one. We assist patients on a first come first basis,” she says.
When asked to share what being a good public servant means to her, Ms. Coetzee explained that it involves “being happy in what you do, knowing also that you do your best for the day. caring, loving and being an advocate for the patient.” The benefits of being a public servant extends beyond the workplace. “Waking up in the morning knowing that you can improve someone else’s situation…when they tell you, ‘I am happy to see you today, I know I am in good hands and that you will take care of me,” patience normally replies.
Although she is currently working as an enrolled nurse, Ms. Coetzee aspires to reach the next level in her career. When asked where she sees herself in five years’ time, she confidently stated, “I see myself as a registered nurse with a degree. You never know – things happen if you believe in it.”
The role of Ms. Coetzee and other nurses is to attend to all patients, oversee their treatment and promote their well-being, which is well in line with the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The objectives of the goal furthermore involve improving reproductive, maternal and child health; ending the epidemics of major communicable diseases; reducing non-communicable and environmental diseases; and ensuring access to safe, affordable and effective medicines and vaccines for all.