There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your clients getting better…
This article was published in one of the famous magazines in New Zealand, The Kaitaki in 2013
Rimutaka Prison nurse Charles Kaluwasha had initially wanted to train as a doctor in his native Zambia, but his final school grades were not quite good enough. Instead, he became one of six male students at the Mufulira School of Nursing, the first intake of male nursing students ever.
“People seeing us on the wards would think we were doctors. They had never seen male nurses before,” he said.
Having completed his three-year diploma, Kaluwasha got a job at the Kalulushi Mine Hospital, the only male nurse in this privately-run establishment. “People treated me a bit like an egg – as if I needed to be handled very carefully!” He also found the female patients rather liked having a male nurse as they believed they were better qualified and more caring.
After three years, Kaluwasha got a job working at the mine site, looking after the miners, especially after mining accidents. He was eventually promoted to team leader, working with 16 other, all female nurses. He left Zambia for New Zealand in 2003 in the hopes of progressing his nursing career.
After completing a six-week competency assessment programme at Greenlane Hospital, Kaluwasha worked for a while at Auckland City Hospital in the emergency,cardiothoracic and neurology departments. He then applied for a job in the ED at Hutt Hospital, working there for the next six years as a level 3 nurse.He also had the opportunity to work in Rehabilitation,occupational health and plastic departments. In 2005, he began a clinically-focused master’s degree at Victoria University, graduating in May this year.
“I managed to do a paper every year,” he said. “I also encouraged other nurses in ED to do further study. By the time I left the hospital in 2009, six nurses had completed their masters degrees from Victoria University – more than in any other area of the hospital.
“I am very proud of my own achievement. I have achieved what I came to New Zealand to do. However, over the last few years there has been no funding to support my studies, so I have had to take out a student loan.”
Kaluwasha believes being a male nurse in ED is a real advantage. “A lot of patients are quite aggressive when they come into ED. When they have to deal with a male nurse, they become less aggressive and less prone to try to manipulate you they way they would a female nurse.”
On the other hand, he is also aware that people from some cultures are not happy to have a male nurse. “You have to respect patients’ rights and I will exchange duties with a female nurse when that is more appropriate.”
Being male is also an advantage in his work at Rimutaka Prison. He took on the job of a prison nurse because he believed many of the skills he had learnt working with miners would be transferable to the tough prison environment. “The atmosphere can be pretty violent at times. It is a job full of challenges where you never quite know what will happen next. Dealing with angry prisoners who have been assaulted by other prisoners can be frightening. I know how to handle these men. You have to be firm and frank with them. No must mean no and yes must mean yes. You get respect if you are honest with them.I would say that my contribution to the prison service has been appreciated by the management. In a recent communication to all managers,Derek Perkins the Regional Health Manager,Lower North stated, “Charles has maintained a professional and passionate approach to prison nursing on top of the huge commitment he had to his studies and his friendly and caring approach to working with prisoners is highly regarded in his team.” This affirmation means a lot to me.There are also some procedures more appropriately done by a male nurse, especially if you need to see a prisoner on his own.”
When Kaluwasha began working at the prison, there was one other male nurse; now he is one of five, working alongside 11 female nurses. He is also an NZNO delegate. He now leads the wound management portfolio, conducting education sessions for the other nurses. There has been a 60 per cent improvement in wound healing since he took on the role.
Despite being in New Zealand for 10 years, Kaluwasha believes his skills are underutilised. Because of his very different background, he believes some nurse managers are reluctant to give him leadership responsibilities. “Getting up the career ladder when you are male can be difficult. I am hoping the fact that I now have my masters will help convince people of my abilities.”
Long-term he would like to be a clinical nurse specialist in acute care, maybe setting up his own practice one day, perhaps in Zambia.
“I became a nurse because I wanted to help my fellow human beings. I follow both the Nursing Council guidelines and the teachings of Jesus Christ to help me achieve this. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your patients getting better.”