"I am glad that I took this step": Debra Mbambo shares what it takes to be a Marjorie McIntosh Postgraduate Bursary Recipient

15 Sep 2015 - 09:45

Meet Debra Mbambo. Debra (Far left in the picture) is a Registered Nurse (RN) from the Gauteng Province, South Africa, and a postgraduate Critical Care Children’s nursing (CCCN) student with the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative and the UCT Department of Nursing and Midwifery. Debra previously completed a diploma in General Nursing with Netcare, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Management with the University of Pretoria.

We caught up with Debra about her studies in Cape Town as one of the 2015 recipients of the Marjorie McIntosh Postgraduate Bursary in Child Nursing and Midwifery. The Bursary Programme was established by the McIntosh family in honour of their mother, Mrs Marjorie McIntosh, who worked as a nurse in Africa, teaching and advising mothers from low-resourced communities about maintaining and restoring the health of their babies and infants.

So, Debra, what made you decide to study further?

I was working as a RN and shift leader in a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Johannesburg but had no qualification in critical care children’s nursing and found myself merely implementing doctors’ orders. I loved working in the PICU, but I did not feel I could properly fulfil my role without the necessary training. In 2013, I began lecturing for Netcare (putting my Bachelor’s degree to good use) and started to explore opportunities for my being sent for additional training to become a paediatric critical care nurse. My goal was then to return to Netcare to develop a similar curriculum for accreditation with the South African Nursing Council (SANC). I met the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative Programme Coordinator, Jane Vos, at a nursing Congress and she told me about the postgraduate diploma offered at UCT. Netcare unfortunately could not send me for further training without my working a number of hours at a Netcare hospital during my studies, so I decided to resign and register for CCCN studies at UCT instead.

That is quite a big step! Who has been your support during this time?

My husband, Simon, and I sat down to do some calculations as to what a year away for me in Cape Town, while studying full time, might mean for us financially. We knew it would be tight but we decided that we would do it, no matter what came our way. I thought I may be able to work some over-time while in Cape Town, but the course is really busy and it soon became apparent that this will not be possible. Simon and I have three daughters, aged four, six and ten. My being away means that Simon is currently doing the work of a single parent.

How did you hear about the Marjorie McIntosh Postgraduate Bursary?

Associate Professor Pat Meyers, from the Division of Nursing and Midwifery, strongly encouraged all of the privately-funded nurses in our year to apply for the bursary. Jane Vos also encouraged me, but I was at first reluctant to apply. Having resigned from Netcare, I found it a challenge to access all the necessary information needed for my application, but, eventually, everything came together and I was able to submit all my documentation. When I received my first email from Jasmine Erasmus from UCT’s Development and Alumni Department (DAAD), inviting me to an event to meet the McIntosh family, I thought that it might be a mistake! I phoned to confirm with Ulpha Ismail at the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative and she told me that the email was intended for me. This meant that I had been awarded the bursary!

Tell us about your day in Cape Town with the McIntosh family.

I was initially nervous to meet with the family, as I did not know what to expect, but it soon became apparent that Mr and Mrs McIntosh really wanted to know Sheree Burger (the Division of Nursing & Midwifery McIntosh Bursary recipient for 2015) and me. They asked us many questions about ourselves and about our motivation for becoming nurses. We were joined by the 2014 Marjorie McIntosh Bursary recipients, Laneshree Govender, Thobeka Duma and Zanele Sapepa, who had all flown in to meet the family. Jasmine Erasmus, Associate Professor Pat Meyers, Nicki Fouche (from the Department of Nursing and Midwifery), Jane Vos and Associate Professor Minette Coetzee also met up with us for the day’s events, which included a very informative trip to Robin Island, followed by dinner out that evening. It was great to see so many historical sites in one day – I really learned a lot about our country’s history!

Are you happy with the choice you have made to study with UCT?

I am learning so many things and have been equipped with so much. I am glad that I took this step. I now know that you need to know the evidence behind what you do as a nurse in providing care for your patients. While it has been tough at times, getting this training has been so important for my being able to go back to help train other nurses.