Patience Refilwe Mabaso (Cuchie), better known as Sister Mabaso, has faithfully served as the Operational Manager of Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital’s (CMJAH) Medical Oncology Ward for 13 years. This past August, she bid farewell to the hospital.
Patience Refilwe Mabaso (54) – aka Sister Mabaso – a widow, lives in Walkerville, Gauteng with her 16-year-old son. She also has an adult son and is blessed with two grandchildren, Kagoentle and Bokang.
Training at Baragwanath Nursing College from 1989 to 1992, Sister Mabaso got her diploma in General Nursing, Midwifery, Psychiatry and Community Nursing. She also has diplomas in Medical and Surgical Oncology and Nursing Administration from the Tshwane University of Technology. She started working at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in 1993, then took transfer to Steve Biko Academic Hospital (SBAH) in 1996. In 2002, she joined CMJAH and in 2004, she became the Operational Manager of the Medical Oncology Ward. Other courses she has completed include HIV and Dispensing.
Sister Mabaso wanted to be a trauma nurse, but after the transfer interview at SBAH, the then Matron Koekemoer said she should become an oncology nurse as she was a very soft, empathic person. Then after a month of working at SBAH, Sister van der Merwe also saw potential in the young nurse and encouraged her to train in oncology nursing. At that time, she didn’t want to walk this path as she equated cancer with death. It was only after interacting with cancer patients that she saw treatment was their chance of survival and that there is always hope.
Characteristics of a good oncology nurse
According to the mother of two, an oncology nurse needs to be a good listener, empathic and have a warm heart. “You need to be a shoulder to cry on for patients and family members. You need to encourage but at the same time stand by your word, emphasising the importance of taking care of their health, compliance of taking medication, and knowing what is wrong with them and what medications they’re taking.”
She adds that is was Matron Bietjie who taught her not to become too attached to patients as there are some who sadly pass on. “I only talk to the patients when I am at work and I don’t give out my number. If they call when I am at work – I am there for them whole-heartedly but I learnt how to draw the line.”
Working in the public sector
The soft-spoken nurse says one needs to be extremely understanding when working in the public sector. “You can’t judge people and must portray a positive attitude.” When asked why she never gave into the lure of private sector, she explains, “I saw the need of underprivileged people…that they needed my services. It’s not about money nor structure.” She feels more doctors and nurses are needed in the public sector, and that private doctors should plough back into the public sector by sharing their expertise.
Throughout the 15 years of working at CMJAH, Sister Mabaso won several awards: Best Quality Assurance from CMJAH; the Cecilia Makiwane Award in 2010 from the National Department of Health; Best Nurse in 2010 from the Gauteng Department of Health.
She was the driving force behind the much-needed revamp of ward 594, clinic 495 and the Oncology Pharmacy (9th floor) when pharmaceutical company, Roche, donated R1,5 million rand to do the revamp. She also organised the Angel’s Walk where R80 000 was raised, and got other groups to donate for the revamp to become reality.
The 54-year-old thanks everyone she has worked with, especially Prof Ruff; Prof Drestori; Dr Adam Nosworthy; Dr Keo Tabane; Dr Maureen Joffe; Sister Josephine Phatoli; Dr Liz Marias; Matrons Pule Martha and Chiloane Johanna (CMJAH); and the staff of clinic 495. She also thanks her family for their support and understanding.