I sacrificed my social life for my home, career —Dr. Elizabeth Olagunju

Dr (Mrs) Oluwayemisi Elizabeth Olagunju is a lecturer in the Department of Nursing Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. In this interview by OYEYEMI OKUNLADE, she shares her experience as a nursing scientist, what the Nigeria government can do to improve the health care system and how she has been able to combine career with home front. Excerpts:

Y OUR educational background

I was lucky to have parents who were passionate about formal education. I learnt from them that it was the day my elder brother was taken to school that I also started schooling because I refused to go back home with them. So I had my brother as my guardian angel because we were in the same class and also finished our senior secondary school education together. With all the stress of ill health and being an HbSS, I was able to finish to time and got good grades that qualified me for university admission. But the fear of ‘won’t this child be getting sick on campus,’ my mum encouraged me to go to a nearby nursing school where I was able to gain admission the same year I applied. All my lecturers loved me and they told my parents that school of nursing was not the place for me because of I was a brilliant student. My mum however assured them that I would further my education. Thank God that I was able to gain admission into the university the same year I finished from school of nursing to study BNNSc in 1998.


But why are you not practicing?

I had health challenges because of my genotype. During practicals, no matter the passion I had to care for a patient, I always ended up getting sick even before a patient recovered. So I got to know that it was either I go for academics or leave nursing entirely because nursing then was still at the rudimentary stage, where you improvise for everything. You lift patient during bed bathing and  care for their physical needs; even those that are three times my weight. That got me sick a lot; it was either I got infected from their infection or got sick from the stress of nursing.  I was advised that I could go into academics and I think I loved that more than the bedside nursing.


What has made you happy or fulfilled in the career? 

My joy in teaching was seeing students come in as a novice and graduate as semi-experts. Trying to increase the man power for nursing which is in high demand all over the world gives me joy. In addition, having the opportunity to continue my education and do my PhD while teaching gave me the utmost joy on my convocation day.


If you did not go for nursing, what would you have studied?

During our time, all science students looked up to becoming a medical doctor. Being among the lucky few that were in science class, Fakunle ’94 set, I also looked forward to becoming a medical doctor. But as luck would have it and due to my health status, I could not go further in my education immediately I left secondary school. The only option I had then was to go to a school where I could be going from home and that was a school of nursing that was not far from my parents’ residence. My journey to nursing is just a way of God leading me through circumstances.


According to you, we do not have enough nursing/patient ratio in Nigeria, yet a lot of them are moving out of the country. What is responsible for this?

It started long time ago when everyone noticed the brain-drain syndrome. Good heads are being lured to developed countries through incentives and remuneration and we all know that a good product will always market itself. For nurses to have graduated in Nigeria having gone through stress and rigors of training, I bet it to say they have been equipped with all they need to perform in an ideal situation and to really render nursing. And if you know that you are a good product in society where your input is not valued, you would want to look out there because nursing in advanced countries is really enticing. You would get your remuneration commensurate to what you have done. Within the health team, your impact is felt and appreciated, you contribute intellectually to patients’ care. No one likes to stay in a place where they are not appreciated. So, I don’t blame nurses that look out for greener pasture. It is everyone’s dream and I wish them the very best. But on the other way, Nigeria is losing out. We use our meager resources to train nurses and for a nurse to be trained, the system would have spent millions of naira in monetary and manpower value. You see a whole department of nursing having staff shortage but they still do all they can to ensure that nurses graduate per time. They cover the entire curriculum and that make nurses valuable in that outside world. The earlier we make Nigeria a very fertile ground where nurses can also thrive and can impact whatever they have learnt in school, the better for the populace. The more we shout shortage of trained nurses, the more nurses that are trained are looking for greener pastures and the less care we get for average citizen when they are in need of healthcare.

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How have you been able to combine your career with the home front?

I appreciate the giver of life, God, who has been my support.  I live a day at a time.  I want to say that God has been my help because my health has not failed. He has always ensured that He keeps me. If not for that spiritual support and succor that there is a supreme being somewhere looking out for me, maybe I would have collapsed. The demand of nursing in Nigeria is hectic and demanding whether by the patient’s bed side or in school.  My watch word is ‘a  day at a time,’ whatever I am asked to do, I prioritise to see which one is more important and if I am not able to do the less important ones, I move them to  the next day. For the home front, God has always been faithful; my husband works outside the state and my children understand the demand of my work so they make little demands in terms of what to cook and eat.  One just has to sacrifice one for the other. So for now, I am sacrificing my social life for my home and career. All glory should be given to God because He has surrounded me with people who really understand my health challenge.


What price did you pay to get to where you are now?

When I was in the university, I made an inscription on my wall then ;‘no pain, no gain.’ No matter what I am facing in terms of health challenges, I still make sure that whatever target I had drawn out for the week, I meet up with them and was lucky to have parents that believed in what I can do and are  always there to support me anytime. As a young girl, I was faced with absenteeism in school due to my health status. For a whole term, I may not go to school for more than a  few weeks and with it all, when examination comes, the Lord usually assisted me to perform very well because even on my sick bed, I read. The strength and passion God has given me is for reading and I know that if I am going to shine, I would use my talent which is ability to read and retain. Whatever is it I am doing, I sacrifice to ensure that I put diligence into my academics because Bible tells me that ‘do you see a man that is diligent in his business, he will stand before kings and not ordinary men.’ Every time I am diligent in sowing, reading and toiling, God has been faithful to ensure that there is adequate harvest.


Advice for the youths

The society now tries to paint success in a different colour from what the principle of success is. It celebrates quick riches, mediocrity and excuses but the bottom line is that the principle has not and will not change. Mediocrity can be for a short time but diligence and hard work will always take you through.   Whatever your hands find to do, do it well and do not compare yourself with another person because you are two different entities from different backgrounds. You may even come from the same parents but you have different assignments to accomplish so discover who you are. You are unique and it is only the unique you that can accomplish; the assignment you have been given that we all termed destiny. As you are persuaded to give it your all, I am well assured that the sky is not only your beginning, success is sure.




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