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Vilimaina’s CPD Journey

Vilimaina and her friend at the graduation ceremony for the Bachelor of Nursing (Bridging) at Sangam College

Vilimaina is a Fijian nurse with various CPD experiences, including a post in Iraq with the Royal Fiji Military Forces, and different educational programs around Fiji. Below is a first-hand account of her journey.

I was born and brought up in a coastal village of Savusavu called Nukubalavu. I did my primary and secondary education in Savusavu before I moved on to Suva for my tertiary education. Though my interest was always to become a nurse, I did not get accepted into this field on my first attempt. So, I opted for my second choice, which was a certificate in secretarial studies at the then Fiji Institute of Technology in 1989. While there, my mind was still on nursing; even more because I would see the white bus coming down Princess Road and passing our school on its way to CWM Hospital almost every day, full of student nurses in their purple dresses and white caps. I kept telling myself that one day I would be on that bus, donning that uniform. Finally in March 1990 my dream came true when I was one of the hundred or so student nurses starting at the then Fiji School of Nursing in Tamavua’s yearly intake. I graduated with a Diploma in General and Obstetric Nursing in 1993 and did my internship at my hometown hospital in Savusavu. After only three months of this I was posted to Navakaka Nursing Station where I spent almost four years before I got posted back to Savusau Hospital. I also worked at other health facilities like the Tawake nursing station and Saqani health centre before joining the Fiji Military Hospital Team in April 2005. I was surprised at how the military hospital operated: the majority of our work was out in the field more than inside the hospital. Sometimes I could be on standby on the ground if there was a game or a national celebration involving military personnel, out in the jungle when there was infantry training, touring other military camps around the country if there was a routine medical board to be conducted, or even in an overseas mission deployment! I went to both Sinai and Iraq during my time. When I went on mission to Iraq, I spent 6 months there. I found it really interesting, as that was my first time ever abroad, it was particularly special because it was a place that where I had never dreamt that I would ever set foot. However, I also really missed my children, as that was the first time I had been apart from them for so long. Mostly though, being in such an amazing place was like a dream. It was so interesting to looking around and see nothing but debris from what the war had left behind. Seeing different kinds of army tanks, trucks, and choppers all surrounded by soldiers of different races really made me realise how fortunate I have been to live in a war-free country like Fiji. In Iraq, I barely ever sleep at night because there would always be prompts coming in and to warn us that an explosive item had been directed at our base. We would have to cover ourselves to save ourselves from the falling debris. It was so hard going through this for six whole months, I for one thought that I would never see my children again! As the months went by, it felt like every hour was longer. Every single day I would wish that it was my last one there and that I would be going home. I have never prayed so much and so well in my entire life compared to then. Finally, I completed my tour of duty and came back and I could only thank the Lord Almighty for his tremendous love. I actually spent almost 8 years with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) before I re-joined the Ministry of Health in January 2014, and I have been at Suva St Giles Hospital in Suva ever since. I had always been interested in furthering my education, but this was not really possible while I was with the RFMF. Finally it felt like my prayers had been answered when the Sangam College of Nursing launched their Bachelors in Nursing - Bridging Program. This was perfect , especially considering I was already 47 years old then. I enrolled as one of the program’s pioneer students on the 5th of September 2016 and completed the program in August 2017. While I was still completing my degree program at Sangam College, Fiji National University (FNU) advertised its Postgraduate Certificate in Mental Health course, which was to commence in March 2017. Even though you needed a Bachelor degree to apply, I decided to give it a go anyway. So, I got a big shock when I received my offer letter from FNU saying that I had been accepted. Suddenly, I was doing two major programs in one year! I had only one aim: to complete both that same year.

Vilimaina (right) and Siisilia Korovavala, Director of Nursing at St Giles

To be honest, it was not an easy ride as I was faced with many challenges. For instance, I was not granted study leave despite applying for it, so I struggled to juggle everything. All at once, I was following my normal daily ward duty roster as well as my study timetables from both schools, and was also looking after my family and other personal commitments. At one stage, I realised that I was not going to cope as I was really exhausted and worn out. When I was on the verge of giving up, I was really grateful to my lecturers for their words of encouragement that kept me focused and motivated on my studies. I finally graduated with both my Bachelors in Nursing on 25th of October and my Postgraduate Certificate in Mental Health on the 12th of December, 2017. The only reason I opted to do both of these courses in a single year was to motivate my two children and make them realise the value of education. I strongly believe that there is no barrier to learning if you really have passion and put your all into it. This year, I re-enrolled at USP to continue with my Bachelors in Management, Public Administration and Psychology. Back in 2010, I had already successfully completed 2 units of this program, but was forced to de-register due to some other personal commitments. I am now also thinking of doing my Masters in Mental Health if it is offered by one of our local universities or if I happen to find a similar program online. At the moment I am mostly just enjoying looking after our mentally ill patients here at St Giles Hospital. Mental health has been my nursing field of interest ever since my training days. Though it is challenging at times, especially considering the various conditions of which patients in our care, it can also be very rewarding. As the condition of patient slowly progresses until they are finally discharged, it is incredible to see. That is when I consider this field of nursing to be so amazing, special and unique. My short-term goal is to try and gain enough knowledge to be able to share it with those who have the passion to care for the sick and the less fortunate. My long-term goal is to continue with this nursing care and geriatrics abroad. My only message to all my colleagues out there is: do not be satisfied with your current achievements, continue to strive for higher grounds and never allow age to be a barrier in achieving your dreams!

Edited by: Margaret Goydych
For more information, contact Ms Shivala Singh, country coordinator for Fiji (email here).