The singing nurse who believes a melody is good medicine

Durban – A Scottburgh nurse, who believes that a good attitude “heals”, has been lifting the spirits of her patients for more than three decades by singing and dancing.

Sister Thathakahle Gumede, 58, who is the operational manager at Philani Clinic, under GJ Crookes Hospital in Ugu Health District in Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, said she started singing for patients at the Umzinto Mobile Clinic in 1989.

Gumede said she began composing songs for health education, especially for health awareness and, after 33 years of nursing, has continued to use entertainment to help her patients.

She described health as a state of complete physical, emotional, psychological and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

“This means that if the person is sick and all these aspects are affected, medicine alone cannot reach all of them. Therefore, I try to create an environment where they are able to get close to me and not be scared.”

Fulfilling her dream to be of service to society, Gumede believes her actions at the clinic, which serves the KwaCele, Mandawe and Amahlongwa communities, among others, helps relieve stress and allows patients to forget their pain, if only for a while.

“The reason why I sing and dance for the patients is that I want them to feel at home, laugh, and forget about their problems and sicknesses.”

Patients react positively, become happy and feel comfortable around her, she said.

“They see that it’s easy to approach me with any problem, and it makes them feel loved and accepted in the facility.”

Gumede said her positive behaviour had rubbed off on the rest of the staff, who sing when doing health education in the mornings.

Gumede said nurses needed to move away from the idea that by serving clients “we are doing them a favour, because that is what’s destroying our profession”.

“My advice to nurses is that we must do our work diligently and religiously, and not allow anything that can tarnish the image of our noble profession.”

She said nurses needed to remember that people were made in God’s image, regardless of the state they were in, and should be treated with respect.

“I strongly believe that medicine treats but the nurse’s good attitude heals Let us make the people feel that once they enter our premises they are safe and loved.”

Gumede said that by respecting the profession, nurses would gain the respect of the communities they served.

While treating patients, Gumede said she noticed the condition they were in because of a lack of food. Going above and beyond her duties, Gumede introduced a soup kitchen for the patients of Philani Clinic, which is funded through fundraising among the staff. She also started a garden at the back of the clinic for the soup kitchen and, when approached by patients for help, she sends them home with vegetables or seeds to start their own gardens.

“I enjoy my work and would never trade it for anything because it has enabled me to change people’s lives.”

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