Earlier this month (4th of November, 2021), the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) inducted her pioneer set of “Quintessential Nurses” into the noble floral profession. Post induction, Our correspondent met with one of the newly inducted nurses – who doubles as the best graduating student of the set – to share her experience and journey in nursing school leading to this remarkable feat. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Medical Mirror (MM): Good day, and we are absolutely delighted to have you today. How are you doing?
Nurse Onyemaechi Esther (Nrs. O. E.): I’m glad to have this interview and I’m doing well. Thank you. I hope you’re fine as well?
MM: Yes, I am, thank you so much. So, Can you introduce yourself?
Nrs. O. E.: My name is Onyemaechi, Chidimma Esther, a fresh graduate of Lagos State University, Department of Nursing.
MM: It’s nice to meet you. So, have you always wanted to be a Nurse and what was your motivation?
Nrs. O. E.: Not really (smiles). At first, I wanted to be an Engineer. However, along the way, I decided to go into medicine but alas, the Lagos State University (LASU) offered me Nursing instead. It was when we made transition into the Lagos State College Of Medicine (LASUCOM) and we began to attend lectures and clinical postings, that I became excited about the program. In addition, there was a particular conference a lecturer of ours took some of us to, where our eyes were opened to the opportunities in Nursing and that also served as a motivation for me.
MM: Wow. You actually applied for Medicine but got Nursing instead?
Nrs. O. E.: Yes.
MM: Were you disappointed at the time you saw the admission for Nursing and not Medicine? Did the thought of writing another UTME ever cross your mind?
Nrs. O. E.: No, I wasn’t and also, I didn’t think of writing JAMB again, I accepted my admission in good faith. I know that God has plans for everything
MM: So, we can say you found love in Nursing accidentally?
Nrs. O. E.: Something like that (Smiles).
MM: Eventually, after all that happened, you ended up being the Best Graduating Student (BGS). Did you set out from the start to graduate as the BGS? Kindly run us through your journey to being Miss. BGS.
Nrs. O. E.: No. I never had plans of graduating as the BGS. I’ll just say I’m the kind of person who values excellence and as such, I always want to do excellently in my studies. Hence, to the best of my ability and as God would have it, I became the Best.
MM: As the first set of the LASUCOM BNSc. Programme graduates, how was your experience? Did you guys have to deal with accreditation issues, Nursing council issues, or not having the required or necessary facilities or any of such?
Nrs. O. E. : As the first set, it was not easy. We actually had no issues with accreditation or accommodation, but we had issues with few things most especially in 100 level. As our program was a new one, we had some courses clashing as per the time scheduled for lectures and we sadly didn’t have anyone to put us through. We were our own seniors. We didn’t even have Past Questions to study with or give us an idea of how our exams would look like especially for our major courses. Thankfully though, I think we survived the pressure of having to set the pace and created the legacies that those coming after us will follow. We have the Lagos State University College Of Medicine to thank for providing us with facilities to use, so it wasn’t a problem at all.
MM: Oh wonderful. I can actually imagine how difficult that would have been. So, while in school, did you have any collaborations or attend any conferences with nursing students of other schools?
Nrs. O. E. : Yeah. I attended some conferences both within and outside Lagos
MM:Nice to hear that. Can you kindly state one or two of such? And how it impacted your studies too. Also, were you involved in your national students’ association politics? Did you run for positions?
Nrs. O. E. : Okay. I remember the one in 2019, the Nigerian Universities Nursing Students’ Association (NUNSA) National Conference at Osun state. On how it impacted my studies, I’d say the conference was majorly centered around politics and also one of the guest speakers spoke on entrepreneurship. So academic wise, I won’t say there was any impact on my studies but instead it had an impact on my social life. I was not really involved in NUNSA politics but I was part of the electoral committee for 2 years.
MM: Great one, I must say.
Nrs. O. E. : Thank you very much.
MM: So talking about your social life now, how was it back in school? Asides from reading and burning the midnight oil, what did you do to unwind?
Nrs. O. E. : Well, I think what people mean by being social is personally defined. Most people in LASUCOM thought I didn’t do anything asides reading. However, about how I unwound in school, what I basically did was to learn stress and time management so I didn’t have to get myself overworked. I also joined school clubs that I wished to join and whose goals aligned with my interest such as the Les Medique Francais, the Rotaract club of LASUCOM and some departments in the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA-Nigeria). Outside the four walls of school, I held some posts in my church such as the Youth Leader, Choir Leader etc. I also engaged in some side jobs such as ushering, Forex and mini-importation. I also learnt copy writing. When it comes to my time and how to spend it, I can be very stingy.
I sat down to study myself especially to know the kind of person I was academically. I took my time to discover what part of the day was best for my reading and assimilation, so during those times, I didn’t joke with it. I also figured out the kind of learner that I was, I mean, I learn faster when I see what I need to know, and hence I try never to miss class. Being armed with all these helps me plan my day so I don’t get to waste my time majoring on the minor or vice-versa.
MM: So, have you always been a scholar? Did you also blaze the trail back in secondary school?
Nrs. O. E. : Not really
MM: Or did you lead your class in Nursing school from the beginning?
Nrs. O. E. : No, it was in 200l.
MM: This is really, really huge. Personally, how did you navigate through nursing school? Did you have any challenges, difficulties etc., and how did you surmount them?
Nrs. O. E. : Yes, I did have some challenges like financial challenges at some point. Also, I lost my dad at some point and after it happened, it wasn’t easy for me to cope. Truthfully, how I was able to pass through those periods, I really can’t tell. I guess I just kept on doing what I needed to, even though I was fully aware of how hard it was.
MM: Oh! I’m very sorry to hear about your dad, and I’m glad that despite the odds, you were able to emerge unscathed. Big ups to you.
Nrs. O. E. : Thank you very much.
MM: So, as a fresh distillate of LASUCOM and now emptied into the ‘’ocean’’ of the Nigerian Health System. Are you excited about this?
Nrs. O. E. : Yes, I’m excited! I’ve looked forward to it all these years and now that I’m at the other side, I’m enthusiastic to see what it would hold for me.
Nrs. O. E. : Yeah.
MM: There appears to be a long-standing rift between Doctors and Nurses plus other health care workers, and over the years has been quite distasteful. In your opinion, what do you think is the fundamental cause of this, and how or what do you think can be done to harmonize the existing working relationship between the players of the Nigerian health System?
Nrs. O. E. : I think the lack of interprofessional collaboration is the root cause of the disharmony plaquing the health system of Nigeria till date. And as such, I suggest that interprofessional collaboration should begin in schools. I mean, it should be a part of the curriculum.
I think healthcare workers, right from their foundational phases should know and understand that healthcare is a system and every part of it are the subsystems, and you’d agree with me that every system needs its subsystems to function properly for it to also function optimally. This I believe will even help to mitigate the never-ending issue of superiority and all. Lastly, I think there should be an association that would serve as an umbrella body for all healthcare workers.
MM: This is a really brilliant take, Nurse Onyemaechi. Indeed, very thoughtful.
Nrs. O. E. : Thank you very much.
MM: If you were in the position to change something about your BNSc. program, what would that be?
Nrs. O. E. : Okay. If I had this power to change anything, I will change the program from a semester-based one to the way the MB:BS program is run. The semester system didn’t help much because it was really very choky.
MM: What would you have studied if not Nursing?
Nrs. O. E. : Submarine Engineering. Engineering was my first love.
MM: What next after BNSc.? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Nrs. O. E. : Internship is the next thing for me now. However, where I see myself in the next 5years, I’m sure it would be outside Nigeria studying for my PhD.
MM: Sounds interestingly ambitious.
Nrs. O. E. : Yes sir.
MM: How did you feel on your induction, when your name was called out as the Best Graduating Student. Also, how did your family take it?
Nrs. O. E. : Of course, I was very happy and my family were equally proud of me.
MM: Thanks so much for your time Nurse Onyemaechi. I had a great time chatting with you and I’m sure anyone who reads this would also enjoy reading and would pick a thing or two. Best wishes in your practice.
Nrs. O. E. : Thank you for having me.