Career With Jahdiong: The Sign-language Trained Nurse

Once a month, Freshly Pressed hunt down rising professionals, all game-changers in their industry, and ask them how they got to where they are in their careers. Beyond “It is God o!”, we want to learn about their skills, systems, and story.

Nursing is the backbone of the healthcare industry anywhere in the world. Registered nurses provide critical care to anyone, whenever it is needed. With this, we can say it is one of the most professional, personal, and spiritually rewarding careers there is. Edidiong Asanga took her love for nursing a step further to the hearing-impaired of Nigeria. In this interview, she speaks glowingly of her amazing career and shared her inspirational journey to where she is right now and what possibilities the future holds in nursing.

What do you do?

I work as a Nurse in a Special Clinic where I employ the use of Nigerian and American Sign Language to care for the hearing impaired. There are over 33,000 deaf people in Akwa Ibom State and over 1 million in Nigeria. Due to the communication barrier, they do not easily have access to health services. And about 80% of these ones cannot afford hearing aids or an interpreter along with the expenses that come with medical treatment.

As a sign language expert, I knew I could fill this gap. Since 2019, I have been working in a clinic that caters specifically to these ones. I also teach sign language to healthcare professionals. The goal is to raise an inclusive workforce and make health care services accessible to the deaf community.

Interesting! How did you begin your career?

I began my career in 2008 when I got admission into the School of Nursing. After my qualification as a registered nurse, (RN) I went on to specialize in Midwifery where I got licensed as a Registered Midwife (RM). Currently, I’m doing my masters degree in Global Health.

How relevant is your undergraduate major to your work?

It is very relevant because that is where I got the very foundation in all related medical fields. So as a general trained nurse, I can work in the pediatric, theatre, surgical, or medical units. It also provided a basis for me to know my area of interest and pursue it.

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How does your job affect your general lifestyle?

My job has helped me to develop special qualities. I am more compassionate, and kinder and I care for people no matter their ethnicity, religion, background, or social status. These qualities have helped me build sustainable relationships outside work. 
My profession also helps me to be healthy and safety-conscious. So, I engaged in activities that prevent illnesses but promote health. From experience, I know that people learn more from examples than what we say, and I need to set a good example in health matters.

How did you become interested in the field?

While still in high school, there was an Awake Magazine published by Jehovah’s Witnesses titled “Nurses: What Will We Do Without Them?” In it, I read about the unique roles that nurses play in helping patients recover. It was also my first time reading about Florence Nightingale, and her contribution to Modern Nursing. Awake interviewed nurses around the world on why they choose nursing as their career and the challenges they faced. The positive reviews other healthcare professionals gave about nurses intrigued me. From that time, I knew I wanted to be a nurse, and never for once did I get distracted from that single goal.

What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?

First, a person must have a science background from high school in order to study nursing. In Nigeria, you can go become a nurse in the following ways –

a) Attend the School of Nursing for 3 years and be awarded a certificate of Registered Nursing. After which you can proceed to post basic areas of specialty like Midwifery, Paediatrics Nursing, Accident and Emergency Nursing, etc.

b) Write JAMB and study nursing at the university, and that usually takes about 5 years after which they are awarded a bachelor of nursing science degree. Either way, at the end of any of the programs, all nurses are registered and licensed by The Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). That is the governing body saddled with the responsibility of regulating the nursing profession in Nigeria.

After being licensed, there are Mandatory Continuous Professional Development Programs (MCPDPs) for Nurses to help them stay updated on the current terrain. This training is vital for nurses due to the constantly changing medical world.

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What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success?

I think empathy is important because when a person is sick, they do not have the necessary strength or knowledge to care for themselves. Another person (nurse) will help them carry out these activities. This requires a lot of empathy (putting oneself in the situation of others) and that quality should never be exhausted.

Another quality is compassion. This quality moves an empathetic person to action, and it should be cultivated by all nurses. 

Yet another quality is good communication skills. Since nurses work with other healthcare professionals, communication both verbal and written is vital. In fact, there is a popular saying in nursing that says – ‘if you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen’. 

Last but not least is knowledge which is our working power. Every nurse needs to acquire enough knowledge in their area of specialty and become conversant with the trends thereof.

Nurse Jahdiong

What kind of accomplishment tend to be valued or rewarded in the field?

In the nursing profession, both locally and internationally, there are awards given to nurses who have shown outstanding leadership, academic excellence, innovation, or social impact achievement. Internationally, there is the Christiane Reimann Prize. It is the most prestigious award in nursing and is awarded every 4years to a nurse or (nurses) who has made a significant impact on the nursing profession wherever they are located. Last year I contested for it. Although I didn’t win, it was an opportunity to talk and tell my social impact story. There are 5 other awards awarded by the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Outside the nursing profession, they are very few awards or recognition for nurses. The year 2020 was tagged by WHO as “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” and there was the unveiling of 100 Global Outstanding Nurses/Midwives Leaders in the world. Only 4 Nigerian Nurses made it to the list and I was among them (YONM.ORG). These nurses represented a host of other nurses around the world who expended themselves to curb the surge of the pandemic. It is high time we give even more recognition to nurses.

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What current issues and trends in the field should we know about?

Some current issues in nursing are the integration of technology into health and this is gaining momentum. The other trend I want to mention is bloodless medicine- a trend everyone should know about. Many patients don’t know that there are alternatives to blood transfusion, and they have the right to ask for it. There is increasing evidence that patients who had surgery without the use of blood transfusion recover faster than those who did. I’m keenly interested in this development and so should everyone.

What is something you wish you knew earlier in your career or life?

I wish I knew how fast technology will influence healthcare and had jumped on it earlier. But it’s never late. I’m catching up with the pace and it’s been an incredible journey. 

What do you like most about your work?

First is the fact that I’m doing something I have always wanted to do. This is me doing what I love. I choose this path and I’m loving it. Second is the impact my job has on many people, especially the hearing-impaired. Assisting this group of people to recover from illness, pregnant women with safe delivery, and the elderly sometimes to peaceful death can be challenging but, in the end, I have the satisfaction that I had done my very best.

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself?

Yes, absolutely. Nursing was and is still my plan A. Although now I have plan B which is my social enterprise, nursing remains my first priority.

  • Edidiong Asanga is a Registered Nurse, an American Sign Language (ASL) Expert, and Trainer. She lives in Uyo where she is using her training to help indigent hearing-impaired people.

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