Matron Martha works side-by-side with the head doctor at her town’s government hospital. Her colleagues call her Matron, the official title for senior nurse officer. She keeps busy performing her many duties, but took some time over several days to tell her story. Matron shares her reasons for entering the nursing field and describes her duties as senior nursing officer.
Matron Martha's Story
I was a very sickly young girl and felt feverish or weak most days. I lived in the boardroom while attending Catholic school, so the Reverend Sisters would take me to the hospital. I loved seeing the nurses in their beautiful bright white uniforms. They always talked to me with calmness, kindness, and encouragement. They explained everything to ease my fears. I developed a passion for nursing from them.
As Matron, I monitor the hospital’s orderliness and cleanliness. I supervise all the nurses and make sure they perform their duties well. If there are any lapses, I mentor them instead of scolding them. Sometimes I need to handle personal conflicts between nurses. If they can’t settle the dispute or reach an agreement with my help, we go to the management office. This happens rarely.
A nurse must be punctual and dress in the proper uniform according to their position. State Enrolled Community Health Nurses (SECHN) wear a uniform with white and grey stripes. State Registered Nurses (SRN) and State Certified Midwives (SCM) begin with a white uniform and red belt. They receive a green belt at second level and a white belt at third level. A nurse officer, or deputy Matron, wears a blue belt and two shoulder stripes. The senior nurse officer, or Matron, adds a third shoulder stripe. I will add my third stripe to my uniform soon.
I represent the hospital’s nursing staff at various meetings in the district and around Sierra Leone. I also attend training of trainer workshops on Malaria, maternal health, and child care to better serve and train my nurses.
My nurses have a good record when it comes to filling out the hospital registration book. I check it regularly for omissions, and ask for corrections when possible. The registration book helps us follow up with patients so it’s very important. After signing in to triage, a patient receives a small card with their registration number and identifying information. If they lose it, we use the book to verify their hospital visit. Sometimes treatments fail and patients return to us much later. We need to find their medical history so we can try new ideas and cure them.
I want to advise my patients to keep your registration cards safe. You should also come to the hospital when you begin to feel sick—don’t wait until you feel worse or it could be too late. The hospital should be your first port of call because we have the experience to help you. There are plenty of unqualified ‘pepe’ doctors that could hurt you.
I go to my office whenever I need to complete administrative work. The Directorate of Nursing in Freetown requests quarterly reports on the running of the hospital, including the number of nurses on duty or on study leave. I also write about the challenges we face. The Directorate provides feedback after reading my reports. They help if possible, or direct me the appropriate authorities to find a solution.
I want to acknowledge and thank my colleagues for their hard work and patience. Let’s continue to serve humanity and give hope to people. That’s my main advice to you. I advise young people interested in medicine to perform well in the sciences: chemistry, biology, and physics. You should also succeed in language and math. These are the key subjects. Your personality also matters. You should have patience, listen actively, show empathy, and be well mannered. Patients usually visit the hospital in distress and may talk to you rudely. You should remain calm and never retaliate.
I have three daughters and I’m very proud of them. The eldest one, Veronica, received her diploma in business administration and now she is married. My middle daughter, Hawa, attends senior secondary school three (SS3) special as a science student and will sit her West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) soon. She wants to become a medical doctor. My youngest, Isatu, is an arts student in senior secondary school two (SS2) and wants to be a journalist. I want to end with advice to my daughters. Veronica: forge ahead in your education even though you are married. Marriage does not mean you should stay at home. Hawa and Isatu: I encourage you to keep the faith and continue working hard so you can achieve your dreams.