Failing mathematics prevented Chevaughn Thomas from going straight into university from high school, but it allowed him to become the main caregiver for his mother, who was recovering from a mastectomy.
His daily routine included administering injections to his mother and dressing the surgical area. The experience has now propelled him to become the top nursing student at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Manchester. Having decided on nursing, he applied to two institutions, and NCU accepted him first.
Ironically, his mother, Gloria Thomas, asked him why he did not try nursing, explaining that he displayed exceptional care.
“So, I said to her that I had applied for nursing and didn’t want to tell anybody until I had gotten through,” he told JIS News. He also recalled that his grandmother, who was affected by Parkinson’s disease, had also suggested that he should pursue nursing.
Gloria shared that when she had to go through her first chemotherapy session, Thomas, who was three at the time, used to travel with her to the medical facility. One day he said out loud, “My mother is going to do her chemotherapy.”
“By him pronouncing that word, I gained some friends, with some of them predicting that he was going to be a brilliant boy,” she said, noting that Thomas had fun playing doctor and nurse with his peers.
“He played a vital role in my recovery. I really appreciate him,” she said.
But Thomas’ journey at NCU wasn’t all smooth. During his second year, his grandmother and a close aunt died from breast cancer, which took a heavy toll on him. However, he pressed on, knowing that the degree was for him and his family, as well as to prove that nursing is not only for females. At the recent pinning ceremony for the 125 graduating nurses, including five males, he had no idea that he would collect the top award.
“I was completely flabbergasted. I did not know what to do in that instant. My world stopped for half a minute, and I wasn’t sure if it was my name that was announced, although my colleagues were urging me to go on stage. When I finally mustered up the courage to go up there, it got me emotional,” he said.
Thomas, 23, said the award has built his self-confidence and “opened a belief in myself that I am able to do anything that I put my mind to, and it gives me an edge to work in the most prestigious hospitals in Jamaica.” He thanked his lecturers, his fellow nurses in training, and members of Kitson Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in St Catherine, who stood with him throughout the “rough four years” in training.
Thomas’ father, Edgar, said that when it was announced that his son was the NCU’s top nurse, “I was elated and out of control.” He said that of his four sons, Chevaughn is the youngest.
Chief Nursing Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Patricia Ingram Martin, said she wants Thomas to become “an ambassador for nursing so that he can be an example of males excelling” in an occupation largely considered to be for women.
“It is very important for males to be in our profession because it improves the general delivery and representation in healthcare. It provides role models for boys and male child patients, who respond better to male nurses than they do to females,” she added.
She said that with the vocation having more than 80 percent females, there can be intimidation and stigmatization for males, but things are changing.
NCU President Professor Lincoln Edwards said Thomas attained 97 percent in the clinical examinations.
“There is a great need for male nurses, and I am expecting him to do exceedingly well because he certainly has demonstrated that he is above the competition, and he enjoys the profession of nursing,” said Edwards.