Forensic nurses’ week – honouring the unsung heroes who serve with compassion
In celebration of Forensic Nurses Week (9 – 13 November), we honour the dedicated and committed Forensic Nurses who go above and beyond to serve patients and communities daily. No community is immune to violence and trauma, brutal incidents occur on a daily basis. Common in South Africa, is interpersonal violence that result in assault and serious injuries. Victims of violence and abuse require care from experienced healthcare professionals who are trained to treat the trauma associated with the malicious act that has been inflicted upon them with compassion, whether it’s intimate partner violence, sexual assault, neglect or another form of intentional injury. Through in depth knowledge and expertise, Forensic Nurses exhibit an ongoing commitment to effective, quality, patient-centric care while identifying and treating the critical long-term health consequences of patients who are impacted by violence.
Matsapa Ezekiel Lethoko, Operational Manager (Nursing, Forensic Mental Health Services), has been employed by the Western Cape Government Health Department for the past twenty eight years and he’s occupied his current role at Valkenberg Hospital for the past thirteen years. Although the nature of Matsapa’s role is quite intense, he has indicated that he has learnt many lessons throughout the years. “One of the lessons I have learnt whilst working in my profession is holding on to empathy and having good interpersonal relationships. Being able to make crucial decisions at the spur of the moment and being objective when managing my personnel or subordinates is key,” says Matsapa. He added that his field of work involves an immense amount of empathy and that it is not about the monetary value, but rather the impression or change that he is able to bring to a patient’s life.
Paulinah Khauhelo Baraza, Operational Manager: Nursing (Out-patient Department) and Sexual Assault Forensic Nurse, has been employed by the Western Cape Government Health Department for the past thirty one years and she’s occupied her current role at Mitchell’s Plain Hospital for the past eighteen years. Like her colleagues, Paulinah plays a vital role in her community. “My role is to provide preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to individuals, families and communities, in collaboration with the legal system and other related professionals. My role is to assist the law by collecting evidence from the victims of physical and sexual assault,” says Paulinah. Young nursing professionals are encouraged to join the Forensic Nursing field since the individuals in communities will continually be in need of Forensic Nursing healthcare professionals. “I would like to encourage young nurses who are interested in joining the field to go for training. I believe accreditation for Forensic Nursing is currently in process. The community needs us and we need to provide physical, psychological and social stability to patients as we’ve vowed to do so as Nurses, “says Paulinah.
“As a Western Cape Government Health we are honoured to have dedicated staff who continually go the extra mile to ensure that patients are assisted effectively and with compassion. Forensic Nurses play an integral role by bridging the gap between law and medicine. They supply a vital link between administration and justice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every Forensic Nurse for the great work that the do within communities in the Western Cape,” says Ms. Vonita Thompson, Forensic Pathology Services Director.
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