International Nurses Day: Meet Damaris
12 May marks International Nurses Day, celebrated each year to honour the contributions of nurses. CCBRT couldn’t run without team members like Damaris – a nurse trained in counselling for fistula patients.
“I always do the night shift, so I have lots of time to talk,” says nurse Damaris in the fistula ward. In fact, talking is part of her job. Damaris is one of very few nurses in Tanzania trained in counselling – an essential service for fistula patients, most of whom have experienced great emotional trauma before accessing treatment.
CCBRT recognises that fistula patients require a comprehensive team of health professionals – from surgeons to counsellors – for holistic recovery. That’s why the hospital invests in training for team members like Damaris. Before joining the fistula ward, Damaris underwent counselling training at a nearby university. Why? She explains: “Working with women recovering from fistula is emotional. After training, I can be strong to help carry their burden and help them move past their painful experiences.”
Damaris adds, “Even if women are physically healed from fistula, without counselling they are only halfway toward recovery. They need to know that there is life after fistula. They can return to their communities. They can connect with friends and family. They can start their own business.”
Damaris’ counselling skills have improved treatment for thousands of women in the fistula ward. She recalls one patient specifically, with a complicated case of two fistulae. Damaris noticed her stress – she didn’t talk to anyone and spent all of her time alone. In counselling, she began to open up about her experience of abandonment: “I’m not even wanted by my own mother and father,” she revealed. But Damaris knew her future was bright. “I told her that everything was possible, that she would go back happy. And that I would support her every day until she went home dry.” The woman made a full recovery, and months later, she and Damaris still talk on the phone.
What inspires Damaris’ commitment to the fistula ward? “They are women just like me. Their stories should be heard. Even though I can’t solve everything, I know that talking makes a big difference.”
There is great need for psychological support for women recovering from fistula in Tanzania. Damaris hopes that CCBRT can continue to train more fistula nurses in specialised counselling skills – “especially nurses on the night shift!”