Rural Hero – school health nurse tackles COVID-19 with nurturing care
For many staff members in the Theewaterskloof Sub-district, the COVID-19 pandemic meant the services they offer would be temporarily stopped and they must concentrate their time and efforts on COVID-19 related matters. For school health nurse, Sr Elsabie Bailey this meant she would have to shift her focus from caring for learners at local schools to remotely caring for COVID-19 patients and their contacts as a contact tracer.
As a school health nurse, Sr Bailey finds herself in a working environment where nurturing is necessary. She is responsible for the visiting schools in the Theewaterskloof Sub-district to assess the scholars’ medical needs and then refer them to their nearest primary health care facility for further assistance. She is also responsible for implementing mass immunisation campaigns such as HPV and TD (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccines, which are given to girls in grade 5.
According to Neshaan Peton, Theewaterskloof Primary Health Care Manager, Sr Bailey approached COVID-19 with the same enthusiasm as she does school health. “Elsabie embraced COVID-19 the same way she embraces challenges in her ordinary work environment and used the same methodology of implementing systems with COVID-19. Being a nurse she was able to assist with giving information to patients and took the lead in implementing clinical systems for the contact tracing,” says Neshaan.
Even during COVID-19, Sr Bailey’s nurturing nature remained prominent, she continued to take people under her wing, this included new staff members as well as the rest of the contact tracing team. For her patients Sr Bailey was not only there to monitor progress but she also offered health advice and support, leaving most of her patients sad to see their phone calls come to an end after their quarantine or isolation period.
One of the COVID-19 patients who she monitored daily for 14 days, Janelle Prins, says “I have only been staying in Caledon for two years and do not know many people in the area. Sr Bailey was a Godsend that helped me through my COVID-19 journey. She did her job with love and compassion and offered me support. I thank God that she was able help me through a very difficult period in my life.”
When speaking to Sr Bailey about her experience as a contact tracer and how she is able to express so much compassion towards her allocated patients, she explains, “it’s a journey you take with the positive cases and talking to them and their contacts about their uncertainties helps them during a difficult time.” This is also one of the reasons why she does not mind working over weekends and making use of her own resources to contact patients as she know the patients expects her phone calls and this in itself is fulfilling.
Sr Bailey says her family has offered her immense support during the pandemic and has been extremely understanding when she needed to work over weekends. She says it has not been all smooth sailing and a small percentage of patients have been difficult and this has taken its toll on her but knowing that she meant something to the majority of her patients is what brings her unparalleled joy.
“Elsabie has remained positive, motivated and always willing to take on more during the pandemic. With her infectious enthusiasm she has proven to be a pilot who is able to navigate while taking the passengers under her wing,” says Neshaan.
Currently Sr Bailey is continuing with the contact tracing and has also made herself available to assist with implementing prevention measures and educating staff and learners at schools in the area. She is looking forward to resuming the school health programme and wants to encourage parents to make sure that their child’s immunisations are up to date.