27 February, 2020
The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife to advance nurses’ and midwives’ vital position in transforming healthcare around the world. Pope Francis has applauded the designation, suggesting that “midwives carry out perhaps the noblest of the professions.” And nurses, he said, are not only the most numerous of health care workers, but also those “closest to the sick,” reports Aleteia.
There are numerous members of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus who currently work or have worked as nurses and midwives. In the African Province, there are 10 registered nurse/midwives, six of whom are practicing in hospitals and healthcare centres in Nigeria.
Sr. Rose Uchenna Nwosu joined the Society as a Registered Nurse in 1974, after some hesitation by the then Superior General, as at that time the Society of the Holy Child Jesus was an educational order. Since all the sisters were working in schools, Sr. Rose was asked to find a job in a hospital where she could practice as a nurse. The first hospital she applied to for a job required that she must be a professional midwife before they can offer her employment. The demand for midwives was in high demand that period because there was a very high rate of maternal and child deaths at that time in Nigeria and more midwives were need who will professionally conduct antenatal clinics for pregnant women and delivery in a more hygienic way and suitable environment to reduce mother and infant deaths.
The society sent Sr. Rose to Ireland to study midwifery 1977-78 to return and practice midwifery in Nigeria. When she returned from her midwifery studies, she convinced the SHCJ Superior General at the time that she could do health education as part of teaching. The sisters then realized that a midwife was really needed to plan for the health education in a clinic managed by the SHCJs at that time at Cardoso Catholic Project, Lagos. So, Sr. Rose went into learning how to manage a primary healthcare facility where she did mainly health education on nutrition, personal and environmental hygiene, antenatal care, immunization of babies, child care, treatment of malaria, diarrhea, and other prevalent diseases, and community mobilization. The work was mainly prevention of diseases through education and demonstrations, mobilization of the people, and treatment of prevalent diseases.
All the nurse/midwives who joined the Society in the African Province worked mainly in primary healthcare to prevent diseases and improve the health status of the communities in which they worked. The SHCJ midwives conducting delivery of babies was a later development in the society.
In September 1990, Sr. Lena Nwaenyi was missioned to Agwatashi, Plateau State, Nigeria to be a matron of a 34 bedded Rural Maternity Hospital. This was the first hospital managed by SHCJ in the African Province. She took delivery of over 100 babies between September 1990 and April 1994; this was the beginning of SHCJs practicing real midwifery in the real sense of it. Since then, other SHCJ midwives have worked in the labour ward taking delivery of babies. Right now, our two healthcare facilities in Abuja have our sisters who are practicing midwifery.
Global Sisters Report has featured the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in an article about religious women whose ministry is maternal health. You can read about Sr. Rose Okoli, SHCJ, and her work via this link: http://globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/women-religious-answer-call-midwife-globally-49466.
Clarence N. Uzogara, SHCJ, contributed to Global Sisters Report’s The Life, a monthly feature about the unique, challenging and lives of women religious around the world. Recently Sister Clarence contributed to the theme, “Ecumenism in experience, sisters share their spiritually enriching encounters.”