Chevaughn Thomas is top nursing student at NCU | Health

Failing mathematics in his examination 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.

The experience gained from this responsibility propelled him to become the top nursing student at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Manchester when he later attended.

Thomas’ daily routine would include administering injections to his mother and dressing the surgery area.

Satisfied that he wanted to enter nursing, he applied to two institutions, with the Mandeville-based NCU being the first to accept him.

Before his decision was told to his family, his mother, Gloria Thomas, asked him why he did not try nursing, explaining that he displayed exceptional care, and that she felt “this calm and ease around you”.

“So, I said to her that I had applied for nursing and didn’t want to tell anybody until I had gotten through,” he shared.

He also recalled that his grandmother, who was affected by Parkinson’s disease, had suggested, too, that he should pursue nursing.

Thomas said that during his second year at university, his grandmother died, and a close aunt also died from breast cancer, which took a “heavy toll on me”.

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 be the one to 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 the stage. When I finally mustered up the courage to go up there, it got me emotional,” he said.

Now 23 years of age, Thomas said that 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 at NCU, his fellow nurses in training, and members of the Kitson Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in St Catherine, who stood with him throughout the “rough four years” in training.

Meanwhile, Chief Nursing Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Patricia Ingram Martin, said that she wants Thomas to do well in the profession and 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,” Ingram Martin shared.

Describing the nursing profession as playing a “very important role” in ensuring health and wellness, she said that with the vocation having over 80 per cent females, there can be intimidation and stigmatisation for males, but things are changing, and they should seek to serve their nation through a profession concerned with preserving life and wellbeing.

For president of NCU, Professor Lincoln Edwards, this development is a demonstration that “Men are on the rise, and although they are few in number, in relation to women at the tertiary level, they are still there,” adding that Thomas attained a 97 per cent in the clinical examinations.

“That shows you how well he is doing, and I am pleased. 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,” the president said.

For her part, Mrs Thomas shares that when she had to go through her first chemotherapy, her son, at three years old, used to travel with her to the medical facility, and one day he said out loud to the amazement of other patients, that “’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 during his childhood he had fun playing doctor and nurse with his peers.

“He played a vital role in my recovery. I really appreciate him,” Mrs Thomas said.

In the meantime, Thomas’ father, Edgar, said that when it was announced that his son was the NCU’s top nurse, he made a big jump from his chair.

“I was elated and out of control,” he said, noting that of his four male children, Chevaughn is the youngest, and he was on top of the world to be part of his son’s achievement.

The first known documents that mention nursing as a profession were written approximately 300 AD. In this period, the Roman Empire endeavoured to build a hospital in each town that was under its rule, leading to a high requirement for nurses to provide medical care alongside the doctors.

The British nurse and social reformer, Florence Nightingale, is considered to be the founder of modern nursing practice. In 1860, she established the first nursing school in the world. By establishing this school of nursing, Nightingale promoted the concept of nurses as a professional, educated workforce of caregivers for the sick.

Jamaica has nine training institutions across the island offering nursing degrees.

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