On the brink of being a school dropout after becoming a teenage mom, a Strandfontein healthcare worker, originally from a town in the Eastern Cape, has seen 40 years of service working for her community with love and passion.
Nurse, Pamela Douglas, 60, celebrated her four decades of service as a professional nurse and was applauded for her dedication at an event hosted by the Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre on Friday April 22 at the West End Primary School hall, where her colleagues were also celebrated for their long service as medical professionals and their services to the community.
Ms Douglas’ family are all in nursing and it was always her wish to be a nurse. “I saw how my late mom, Gean Alexander, worked with people and it inspired me. I used to go with my mom, and her twin sister Joan Burger, who were both nursing sisters at GF Jooste Hospital in 1978,” she said.
In January 1982, she started as a nurse at Groote Schuur Hospital. In 1984 she went to the Heideveld Midwife Obstetrics Unit (MOU), which serves the greater Athlone health district of the metro.
She joined the Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre’s MOU in 1988. She has also worked at the ambulance services in 2005 part time. From 2007 to 2011 she studied at the Healthnicon Nursing College in Parow, and graduated, and returned to the MOU.
However, before starting her nursing career Ms Douglas was all set to go work as an admin clerk at a furniture store; she was 16, pregnant and was planning to leave school but her mom inspired her to finish her school career.
She was at Manenberg High, had her son and finished her matric.
“My teenage years were very challenging, being a teenage single mom and going to school. I encourage young single girls to do what’s best for their lives. Your life is not over, push forward, climb and reach your destination in life,” said Ms Douglas.
In 1989 Ms Douglas had her daughter and in 1997 her son, Arnold Douglas, now 43, matriculated at Strandfontein High School.
She put her son through medical school at Stellenbosch University with her modest salary.
He went on to become a neurosurgeon and then changed specialities, becoming a plastic surgeon with his own practice while consulting for Tygerberg Academic Hospital and assisting with the training of future plastic surgeons. He recently graduated from Harvard University and is furthering his career in America.
Ms Douglas’ daughter, Jamie-Lee Fortune, 33, studies law, part-time.
“My mom always told me nursing is not a job, it’s a passion,” Ms Douglas told the Plainsman. “If you don’t have the love to care for others, then you shouldn’t do it. My mom inspired me to do this with love and passion.
“I inspired my son to do the same thing. My son saw me work seven days a week. He also wanted to do this (a career in medicine). I was his role model for where he is today,” she said.
She recalls her time working in Heideveld in the 1980s. The housing conditions were poor; some people didn’t have proper houses those days and often would use anything they could to fashion their structures from, even black bags. This was also the time maternity nurses would make house calls; she would clean babies and nurse the moms.
In nearby Langa, which they also served, Ms Douglas met the late singing icon Brenda Fassie, who was born in Langa and grew up there. “We used to go every second day. Brenda used to run to the gate and say ‘nursey nursey’ and grab my bag. They were always so excited to see us. They used to treat us like queens,” she remembered.
“I love my job, I love what I do – I love the shouting and screaming of the mommies as their babies come … and putting them on their chest. They’d come back and apologise if they were rough during labour,” said Ms Douglas.
She said their staff have love and respect for one another and they are a beautiful team.
Ms Douglas said her partner, Nigel Mouton, has supported her and made her milestone 60th birthday on March 30, very special.
Her cousin, Berenese Burger, said she is a very dedicated healthcare worker. “She loves her work. She’s been pivotal to my parents, who are in their 70s, during Covid-19. She nursed them and brought them out of it. She really loves it, and deserves every inch of the 40 years,” said Ms Burger.
Colleague Shumoney Constant, met Ms Douglas 12 years ago at the MOU. They worked night duty together. “She’s very good at teaching and educating medical students, and she assists where help is needed. She came a long way with her children. I’m so proud of her,” said Ms Constant.
A few last words of advice from Ms Douglas for the next crop of healthcare workers: “To the new generation of nursing, don’t look at your salary. Look at the passion for your community. Give your neighbour love and passion and always be respectful. Never be judgemental – we are all the same regardless of who we are.”