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International Nurses Day
The wonderful caring souls who comfort patients

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. Highly skilled and trained, these medical professionals play a key role in the care of the sick, offering an essential service to our society. That’s why on May 12 every year, the world celebrates their contributions on International Nurses Day.

Training medical staff including nurses is part of the core work of The Fred Hollows Foundation. Ophthalmic nurses in remote areas are responsible for a wide range of work, including admitting patients to hospitals, working with the surgeon to prepare patients for surgery and care for them afterwards. They witness the most important moments of recovery of patients. 

Let's meet four ophthalmic nurses trained by The Fred Hollows Foundation and how they silently push forward positive changes in the community.



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Nurse Hazel who never gives up 

Hazel Ladroma is an eye health champion working hard to improve the quality of eye healthcare in her province. For the past 10 years, Hazel has been the Department of Education’s nurse-in-charge for the province of Surigao del Norte in the Philippines, working with schools in various health initiatives, including eye health programs.

Having suffered from poor vision in high school, Hazel knows how difficult it is to study when you can’t see clearly. Her passion is to help students, especially those who could miss out on opportunities because of vision impairment. 

“I was frustrated with the state of our eye health services. The problem is, when we identify students with eye problems, we don’t know where to refer them.

“In the province, we don’t have an established eye health facility as all optometrists and ophthalmologists are in private practice, leaving many of our students untreated. We constantly lobbied to local government units to provide eyeglasses to students, but not all of them were responsive. Over the years, our enthusiasm for eye health wavered due to lack of support,” Hazel said.

Things started to change when The Fred Hollows Foundation started the Community Eye Health Program in Surigao Del Norte. With doctors and nurses from the private and public health systems working collaboratively with teachers, social workers, government and corporate donors, Hazel regained her enthusiasm as she makes her own contribution as a nurse in the Department of Education.

“I am happy just by seeing students being examined by an optometrist. The majority of these students have never even visited an eye clinic. That feeling you get when you distribute eyeglasses to students and they’re wearing it – that keeps me going. I can’t make this possible without the assistance of all the schools, nurses, and teachers that we trained,” Hazel said.


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Nurse Zhao from China 

Zhao Qing has been a nurse in Guangxi for nine years. To her, “Good vision is very important. Guangxi is relatively remote and there are quite a lot of cataract cases. Many young people go out to work and if the elderly cannot see, a day can become as long as a year. At least after a sight operation, they can take care of themselves. "

She recalled a story: "I remember an old man who touched his way when coming into the hospital. After the surgery, he was able to see and very happy that he simply left his crutches in the doorway." Being able to see the patients becoming independent again, is the greatest joy of the eye care staff, said Zhou. 

In order to improve her knowledge, Zhao took the initiative to apply for training by The Fred Hollows Foundation, which she found very useful. 

She said, "After studying, I found that eye care education is very important. Some elderly people watch TV commercials for many years and thought that cataract can be fixed with eye drops, which is not true. We need to work closer with the village doctors who are in contact with the elderly patients the most."


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Nurses at the frontline to fight COVID-19

Mary Ojwang is an ophthalmic nurse in Migori in Western Kenya. She was trained by The Foundation in 2014 and had been conducting regular eye clinics until coronavirus concerns caused the local health authorities to close the clinic and transfer any urgent eye care cases to other county hospitals.
Mary has been redeployed to screen and care for patients with COVID-19. She said Kenyan people knew that the virus spread easily and awareness was increasing. People understand the importance of "social distancing", stay away from crowded places, and use hand sanitizer to clean their hands,” she said.

"The medical personnel have insufficient personal protective equipment… this is your life, and you can only take responsibility for yourself," Mary said.

She said medical staff at the hospital handled each patient very carefully, because they did not know whether the patient came with the virus. 

Mary misses her eye patients and is concerned that COVID-19 will have a much greater impact on those who are blind or vision impaired. She estimated that after the epidemic, more people with eye diseases will return to the hospital than before, and hospitals will have to prepare early. "I like ophthalmology very much. The patients cannot see clearly when they enter the hospital, but they can move freely after they leave. I hope to resume the ophthalmology service as soon as possible."


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The teacher of nurses

Li Yuetao is a nurse herself and a teacher of nurses too --- she trains ophthalmic nurses in Gansu Province, China, for The Fred Hollows Foundation. As a trainer, she believes that she has to be very familiar with various eye diseases, and the surgical procedures from outpatient clinic, to the ward and detailing down to supply rooms where medical equipment is stored.

She said: "Nurses must understand every step of the operation, and they must have a clear mind. We also need to understand who our students are and how much do they know. If the students are fresh to the procedures of operations, I will teach them step by step and slowly build up their knowledge."

Li used to work in Guangzhou, a big city in China. She said: "Teachers are not only passing on knowledge and skills, but should also take responsibility for who they are. We who have worked in big cities for so many years, also hope that county hospitals can gradually develop. This can make seeing a doctor easier for patients and they don’t have to travel too far. I believe that good students can come out of strict teachers. At the beginning, I did not know how to teach students but I reflect on what to do, what is the goal, and review the teaching methods." Li is highly respected by nurses she helps train, who certainly would become good partners of doctors.


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