Voices of Youth Inspire! "Nursing is a phenomenal way to see the world!"
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Name: Karin Benson
Location: Conakry, Guinea / Brisbane, Australia
According to your business card – what’s your job title? I don’t have a business card, but I am a registered nurse, currently specializing in wound care. I work on the Africa Mercy, a non-governmental hospital ship that provides free surgeries for the people in West Africa. Most of my current patients have suffered from burn injuries that were never treated or from disfiguring tumors – all conditions that until they are fixed will prevent a patient from being able to go to school, make a living, or even be welcomed into society.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old? At age 10 I’m fairly certain that I wanted to be a nurse, a paramedic or an actress, with no particular preference towards any of the three professions. My grandmother was a nurse though and she took advantage (in a good way) of the fact that I was the only grandchild even moderately interested in her job. When I was 10, I never thought I could travel the world as a nurse, but it turns out nursing is a phenomenal way to see the world!
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day? Skin grafts. Rehabilitation. Healing. Pain medication. Laughter. Dancing. Jelonet and betadine. French. Neurofibroma. Hope.
What did you study? Nursing.
How important was your choices of degree/field of study at university for what you’re doing now?
[X] Really important – couldn’t do the job without it!
[ ] Not directly relevant but taught me a lot of skills which I use now
[ ] In this career, other factors are more important than a degree
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field? - Compassion for individuals – nurses often take care of people during their darkest moments and as a result, we can see the ugly side of people – compassion and a little bit of patience can go a long way with a patient. - Critical Thinking – things happen fast in the medical field and being able to quickly discern the good from the bad is essential. - Flexibility – Shifts never go like you plan them and if you’re not flexible you’re going to end up really frustrated!
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers?
[X] Subsidize the cost of tertiary education more
[X] Governments should create incentives for companies to hire young people
[X] Companies should create more formal internship programmes for university students at all levels – with stipends
[ ] There should be a stronger focus on developing entrepreneurship at school level
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you have ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do? I work in an environment where 99% of my patients don’t speak English and I rely on translators for most of my communication with my patients. Our translators are amazing and speak not only English and French, but also several tribal languages. On occasion though, we have patients who are from remote villages and even our translators are unable to speak to them. When this happens, we do the next best thing and use another patient who speaks that particular tribal language to help translate. It’s a bit like playing the game of ‘Telephone’, the game where a phrase gets whispered down a line of people and at the end you compare the two phrases. This happened once while I was taking care of a woman who suffered from an obstetric fistula. I wanted to ask her if she was having any pain following her surgery, but in order to do so, the question first had to go through my French translator, who then asked a patient in her tribal language, who asked another patient in a different tribal language, who then asked the actual patient in a third tribal language. The four of them had a good animated discussion for several minutes before the French translator turned to me and replied solemnly: she would like an egg.