LAUTECH’s Chief Nursing Officer bags First Class in Psychology, says every challenge is an opportunity for growth

Joy Chinwe Onuegbu, a Chief Nursing Officer at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Health Centre, recently bagged a First Class in Psychology. She also has a nursing/midwife certificate, a PGD and an MSc (PhD grade) in Social Work. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she tells why she needs a PhD scholarship, the HND/degree dichotomy, her work at LAUTECH Health Centre, among others.


You did your first tertiary education in a school of nursing and midwifery. Why did you not attend a university then or attend one immediately after your school of nursing education?

I could not attend the university then because I was not properly guided career wise. We thought university education was for the rich and for the exceptionally brilliant ones. It was when my husband sought my hand in marriage that I told him that I wanted to study nursing, and he helped me to obtain the form. I went for the entrance examination and the career began. So, I was already married before I got admitted into the school of nursing and I had a baby while in school.

After my school of nursing, taking care of the family was more important then, coupled with the fact that we had financial constraints. The opportunity for university education was not there until I started working in the university.


How long have you been a nurse at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Health Centre and what is your current position there?

I have been a nurse at LAUTECH since October 1994 (27 years now). My current position is Chief Nursing Officer, and I have been on this position since 2009.


Which of the education qualification were you employed with as a nurse at the LAUTECH Health Centre? How were promotions with your nursing certificate since then?

I was employed with Registered Nurse/Registered Midwife certificate as Staff Nurse /Midwife and my promotions have progressed like any other nurse, until my present position.


You have a PGD and an MSc in social work. Why social work? And how has your degree in social work shaped your life and career?

LAUTECH started running a PGD programme in social work in 2006. I saw the opportunity to earn a degree in the university where I work since I could not go for BSc in Nursing because I was not a major science student in secondary school. There was also a need to establish a social work department at the health centre that same year so I thought I could cross to that unit on completion of the course, but before I finished the programme, a junior worker was employed to head the place. I couldn’t apply to change to the social work department again since I was already way ahead of the head of the department in my position then. So, after completing the PGD I felt the need to go for my Master’s hoping that there will be opportunities for me to use the certificate.

On how the degree has shaped my life and career, I got the understanding that social work degrees teach students how to improve the well-being and life quality of vulnerable people like children, youths, the homeless and minority groups. Students learn how to support people in need of help and how to empower them to take action and to solve the problems they face. The greater percentage of students in the university are adolescents and we always have adolescent health and behavioural problems like drug addicts, psychological and mental health problems, violence, and other vices.

So the knowledge of social work has helped me in understanding the social predictors of health and illness behaviours, and how to care for the vulnerable within the university community. In fact, every nurse attends to the social well-being of his or her patient, and my degree in social work helps me carry this out with ease.


You opted for a PhD, but the university you applied for declined your application because you did not have a bachelor’s degree. How did that make you feel?

I was about to apply when I learnt about the first-degree challenge. Well, I was not happy. But every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and that is what made me to go for a degree in psychology.


With your age and pressing work schedule, how were you able to graduate with a first-class in Psychology? And, why Psychology instead of Nursing or Social Work?

God made it possible for me to graduate with a first class. I don’t see my age as an issue when I’m studying. After all, ageing is in the mind. God gave me the strength, the determination and the grace to aim for the best and to attain it.

On why I opted for Psychology instead of Nursing, like I said before, I wasn’t a science student in secondary school. I had only biology when I was given admission to school of nursing. Physics and chemistry were not compulsory for admission then, but you will take them as courses in the school of nursing and must pass them in the first year before you will be promoted to the next level. So, I could not go for nursing degree. Moreover, my next promotion will take me to an administrative position, so I used the opportunity to go for Psychology since it is a course that deals with the understanding of human behaviour, and organisational culture and management.

The aim is to equip me to understand why people behave the way they do, what motivates or drives them to put in their best at work or otherwise, and how I can best manage them. I feel it will also be useful for in the future.


You said you want a full-sponsored PhD scholarship broad. Why do you need a PhD? Which foreign university would you want to do it and why that particular university?

I need a PhD, because completing a PhD can give you a great sense of personal achievement and help you develop a high level of transferable skills which can be useful in one’s career as well as to contribute to the development of knowledge in one’s chosen field. I know that I have an intrinsic motivation for self-actualisation and I believe no knowledge is a waste. I am sure that it will be needed in the future, by God’s grace. I am hoping for a scholarship abroad because I believe it will afford me the opportunity to meet with people of diverse cultures in a better study environment.

The question of the university I want to applied to; I have not applied to any abroad university for now, and I don’t have any in mind. I am still searching and yet to make up my mind.


Have you talked to the university you work for or the government or any organisation about your interest in studying for a PhD and a possible sponsorship from them?

I have not made any contact or request for sponsorship. Many things came up during the year that made me take a break. But I will commence an active search for sponsorship in pursuit of my PhD dream.


If you are lucky to get the full-sponsored scholarship, which area of research/discipline would you like to explore and why?

I will like a study social psychology, looking at how social experiences such as stress, social status, social support, discrimination, etc., influence physical and mental well-being. I will also like to look at interventions aimed at improving health behaviours. Young people and reproductive health problems will also be an area of interest.


There is a bill in the National Assembly seeking to stop the dichotomy between HND and degree certificates. Are you for or against the bill?

Chances and opportunities sometimes make people go for either a HND or a bachelor’s degree. So, people should not be discriminated against or stagnated in their career progression based on whether they are HND or degree holders. That’s my opinion, though.


What three challenges do nurses face at the hospital you work, and how do you want LAUTECH management/Oyo State government to handle these challenges?

First, short-staffing in the health centre is a top concern for nurses. They should employ more nurses, and hospital attendants.

Second is workplace hazards, workplace violence, bullying and harassment by the students. Standard security measures should be put in place. I also think that proper orientation of the students will help them to know how and where to channel their complaints and grievances, instead of them venting their anger on the staff.

The third one is non representation of nurses at policy/decision making tables. We want our voices to be heard through a better representation of nurses at the policy tables.


How do you manage the stress from your work? And how does your family help in this regard?

Work environment and workload stress are managed by God’s grace. I plan my day, do my best at work, and hand the rest over to God. I try as much as possible not to allow the problems at work to affect the emotional environment at home. God also gave me grace to balance church life, work life, and family life such that none has so much affected the other negatively.

I have a very supportive husband and family members that help. They are also my sources of strength after God. So, I can say that I have a very powerful social support.


What advice do you have for women who are aspiring to be like you?

Be determined to follow your heart, and give your best to what you want to do. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and He will establish the desires of your heart. There is no limit to what a determined person can achieve.

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