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Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has more than 200 nurses on staff; each playing a part in saving lives on our island every day. Nursing is not a glamorous job but one that we all need at a certain point in our lives. Unfortunately, we don’t often take the time to show how grateful we are for the patience, empathy, care and hard work our nurses put into their jobs.

Natasha Gordon, Jules Carty and Corwin James are three of these dedicated nurses working at SMMC. Like every caregiver; they have unique stories to tell: some sad, some uplifting and most of them inspiring!

  • Jules Carty

Anaesthesia Technician - Operating Room

Tell us about your journey to nursing.

When I was young, I was often sick. We had a big family, so I lived with my grandmother and aunt for a while so that they could take care of me. My aunt Ramona Illidge is a nurse who worked on Sint Maarten for over 40 years. As a child, she often took me to the hospital where I saw her at work and pretended to be her assistant. Seeing her at work, I developed an early interest in taking care of people.

Later I was sent to Aruba to finish high school. Initially, I was much more interested in playing music than going to school. Nonetheless, I completed my HAVO and had planned to come back to Sint Maarten to work at the bank; but my aunt had a different plan for me! She knew that the island needed nurses and that I enjoyed taking care of people. So I was sent to Eindhoven, Holland, and I became an Anaesthesia Assistant. In retrospect, I am grateful for the choices she made for me and I am proud to say that I have been working in my field for more than 30 years on Sint Maarten!

What skills should a nurse have?

You need to love people! If you are in it for fame and fortune, forget it! You also need patience, compassion and determination to be a good caregiver.

What about your job is hardest; what is most rewarding?

The hardest and most rewarding times are when you have to stand up and make the unpopular decision to be the patient’s advocate. This may cause conflict with colleagues, but everyone understands in the end that the patient is central and it’s about giving the best care to the patient.

It is unbelievable how caring people in the medical field can be. I remember years ago in the St. Rose Hospital when a lady gave birth and did not stop bleeding. She needed blood to survive. In those days, we did not have a blood bank as we do today. Whenever patients needed blood, people from the community would offer their blood to help those in need.

However, due to the time of day and urgency in this case, the nurses working that day had no other choice but to give blood themselves, including myself. Today that patient is alive and well. The most rewarding part is seeing how grateful people are and knowing that you have contributed to your country!

How do you see your future in nursing?

I will be at this job for as long as I can, next to playing music in my band and taking care of my four kids. I do hope that those responsible for assisting and facilitating the process for expanding medical services on Sint Maarten will see the value of this and also understand that it will reduce a lot of cost. Families will not have to be subjected to travelling far and can be right here at home with their families receiving quality care.

We have talented, trained medical professionals on Sint Maarten and it will be more productive if we provide them with the tools and facilities they need. Finally, I also hope that more young Sint Maarteners become nurses, become part of advancing healthcare on the island. We need you!

  • Natasha Gordon

Registered Nurse – Hospital Information System

Tell us about your journey to nursing.

I grew up eager to help people. This naturally progressed to going into nursing. After attending Sint Maarten Academy, I went to nursing school in St. Kitts. As soon as classes got started, I knew I was in the right place. Three years later, in 2009, I had an Associate Degree in Nursing and became a Registered Nurse.

It was my goal to work at SMMC, so I could learn as much as I could in the field of nursing. I first did a six-month stint at Mullet Bay Clinic and would then start working in the medical surgery ward at SMMC to my delight. After just two years, in 2013, I was promoted to assistant supervisor in the department.

Another year later, the hospital asked me if I’d be interested in working with the Hospital Information System. They were in the process of transferring paper documentation to digital databases; which improves patient care, helps preventative care and provides useful statistics nationally and internationally. They needed someone to manage the system from a nurse’s perspective. I said yes, and today I create documentation, train others and travel. I never imagined that within my profession were so many diverse things to do!

What skills should a nurse have?

My daughter often says, “Mommy, you’re always helping people!” You need to “want” to help others; during and outside your job hours. Nursing is a calling!

What about your job is hardest; what is most rewarding?

The hardest part of course is when a patient doesn't make it. It is our goal to make everyone better, so when that does not happen, it can feel like you failed. Although you might feel down, you also need to stay strong so you can focus on other patients you have in the hospital.

Besides that, it can be difficult when patients can become grumpy, rude or aggressive when they are sick or in pain. You need to be patient and empathetic in the situation. Luckily, once they feel better, they often also apologize for their behaviour.

It is most rewarding when you know you have saved a life. I remember a gentleman who had had major surgery; he seemed fine until the night shift came around. I checked up on him and noticed he had taken a turn for the worst. He was rushed to surgery again, which saved his life.

How do you see your future in nursing?

I want to learn as much as possible in my field and continue doing my part to improve lives to the utmost of my capabilities!

  • Corwin James

Interim Assistant Supervisor - Intensive Care Unit

Tell us about your journey to nursing.

I knew I wanted to get into healthcare from as young as 12 years old. Maybe it was watching all those old medical TV-shows that inspired me. I loved the idea of being someone that could help someone feel better. Graduating at 16, I was too young to start nursing school, and for a while my life took a different path. I started working for a bank, saving money and lived in New York for a few years.

This changed – thanks to my family who always supported me in my dreams to work in healthcare. My parents found an opportunity for me on Sint Maarten; it was an in-house course for a year at SMMC to become a nursing assistant. I worked at the bank during the day, attended classes at night and worked at the hospital on weekends.

Through a partnership with a nursing school in Curaçao, I got more in-house opportunities to further my nursing education until I finally became a Registered Nurse and started working in the Intensive Care Unit! It took me more than 10 years, but I finally got to where I was supposed to be.

What skills should a nurse have?

It isn’t always glamorous; there are bodily fluids involved, but that does not matter. I’d describe myself as an introvert, but if a patient needs a motivating conversation, I will be there for them. No matter what is going on, you need to put everything aside to give the best care you can to your patient!

What about your job is hardest; what is most rewarding?

It is always hard to deal with death, but as a medical caregiver, you learn to develop a thick skin. Yet when children are involved, my skin is never thick enough. A few years ago, a colleague’s child became seriously sick and we did everything we could; yet our efforts were not enough. I am a believer; I guess God had His way; but it is still hard for me to talk about it until this day or see any other child in pain.

The reward in the job is its fulfilment. We had a patient that was critically ill and in and out of the hospital countless times, but he got better. I was part of the team that made that happen. We still see him today; neither he nor anyone from our team can pass each other without saying hello. I made a difference in his life. There is no greater feeling.

How do you see your future in nursing?

A few weeks ago, I got promoted to Interim Assistant Supervisor of the Intensive Care Unit. Our goal is to make sure the ICU runs smoothly and that patient-care is at its best. I will be working in the medical field for as long as I am able!

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