Professor Prisca Olabisi Adejumo, Head of Department (HOD), Nursing Department, University of Ibadan, has a PhD in Medical Sociology and another one in Nursing. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about her childhood experience, her most defining moment and why she loved the nursing profession. Excerpts:
WHAT was growing up like for you?
It was a wonderful experience but tough. I was an only child of my mother and father as a single entity meaning there were other siblings from other partners. My mother who was the second wife of my father had no child for many years. She left my father after having 12 miscarriages. It was after she left that she realised she was pregnant but she decided not to tell anyone, even after giving birth to me. It was on my 7th birthday that she took me to my father. It was difficult locating him but we eventually did. He was very happy and told my mum he made efforts to look for me and even thought she was dead. He refused to allow her take me away again and from that moment I started staying with my father. My mother was very strict with me when I was staying with her but when I moved to my father’s house and was living with him, he spoilt me because he had many male children but few female and also because he really loved my mother, he transferred all the love he had for her to me. Some years after she took me to my father’s house, she remarried and had two other children. I was precious to both parents because I was their only child.
What was your childhood fantasy?
I really wanted to be a nurse. I just loved nursing. Whenever we were playing, I would always play the role of a nurse. I thought if anything stopped me from being a nurse, I would be an air hostess. I think the way they dress was one of the attractions for me. My father wanted me to be an engineer, he hated nursing with a passion. He felt nurses were not given proper recognition in the society. I did GCE in form 4 and cleared all my papers. What I did for him was to run away from boarding house and apply for school of nursing. When the result of successful candidates was published in the newspaper and he saw my name there, he was surprised. He came to the hostel to look for me but didn’t meet me there because I had gone to pay the acceptance fee. There was fracas between him and the school that I was allowed to leave without his permission. He was surprised I went that far and eventually allowed me to do nursing.
Can you share with us one of the memorable experiences you had while still in school?
One day, I was going back to school in Benin, at Sagamu junction, it was getting late and we started thinking of where to sleep. Somebody suggested we should go and sleep at the police station and I said no way. I walked down the road a bit and saw a beautiful house and went and knocked at the gate. I asked for the owners of the house; an elderly man and his wife. I told them I was stranded and needed a place to sleep till morning. They looked at each other and asked me how I got to their place and I replied that I saw that the house was beautiful and felt the people living there will be good people. They laughed and took me in. For the first time in my life, I slept on a water bed. They gave me breakfast and took me back to the park. Then the country was good; there were no ritualists or kidnappers then.
Since you said you have always loved to be a nurse, why did you now decide to go into academics?
I worked in both private and teaching hospitals before I came into academics. I had some experiences that made me think that things were not really as I thought they were and decided to find out more. For example, while still at school of nursing at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, after finishing my six months training, I was looking forward to being in the ward and being called Nurse P. I was looking smart in my uniform with my cap on when, three of my secondary school mates came in and said Prisca, what happened to you? They just got admission into University of Benin and felt how could a brilliant student like me be in a school of nursing. A matron saw what was happening and intervened. She told me not to mind them. After that encounter, I decided that I will get to the zenith of my career as a nurse.
Which do you enjoy most, working as a nurse in the ward or teaching nursing in the classroom?
I know this will be very controversial but sincerely speaking working at the side of patients is more rewarding and interesting for me than being in the classroom. I met someone in the US recently, I did not remember him but he called me, aunty nurse, south east 3, UCH and he told me about how I took care of him and prayed for him when he was very ill and on admission at the hospital. He was so happy to see me and gave me money. Being by the side of a patient gives you the opportunity to relate with them. I call nurses gate keepers, we are at the gate when lives are to be born and when they want to depart the world. It is really a great privilege and opportunity to really be a nurse. As an academics too, we still have the opportunity to go to the ward with our students.
How were you able to combine your career with the home front?
The Bible says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Jesus is the source of my energy, it is only something that you don’t want to do that you cannot do. Once you set your mind to do something, ask God for the strength and grace to do it. He has never failed me, He has been helping and He is still helping me. Also, I married my friend and brother. He is a very loving and homely man. Going to school was tough, I did first degree, two masters and two PhDs but my husband was very supportive. He will take care of the children whenever I am in school or at work. He was very helpful and made it very easy to juggle everything together.
What are the most defining moments of your career?
Becoming a professor was what I desired, cherished and prayed for but it happened at an unexpected time that I was taken aback. It took so long for some people to get it but for me, it was an accelerated promotion. It was announced 28th February 2016. It was purely grace of God, hard work and being focused. Another defining moment was delivering my inaugural lecture exactly three years after I got my professorship. It is a dream come through. The title of the inaugural lecture is : Riding through risks into new frontiers: The nurse, the nursed and nursing. I believe under the wings of the almighty God, God has placed giants on whose shoulders I have had opportunities to see afar and have been riding to new frontiers. In my profession, I rode though various plethoras of risk events into new frontiers as a nurse.
What advice do you have for parents and children?
Parents should give their children opportunities to face challenges, life is about risks, you need challenges to be able to move from one level to another. Don’t do everything for them. The Bible says train your child the way he should go, when he grows he will not depart from it. Many parents educate their children but they don’t train them. Sending them to good schools is not enough, you need to give them an all round training. For the children, they should be hard working, have a sense of purpose and direction. Be focused, pursue excellence in all you do and have an intimate relationship with God.