Making a Difference

By MICHEAL COOKE

I recently visited the North Block Health Clinic, to seek medical service for a chronic health problem that has plagued me for years. I sat in the uncomfortable, but well-lit, 8’x8’ holding cage, waiting my turn to be seen by the nurse.

As I waited, I began to contemplate what inspired some people to pursue their career as healthcare providers, especially those that work within the criminal justice system and prisons.

With the reported shortage of qualified nurses and physicians, finding employment anywhere else, besides a prison, would seem to be the least of their concern. So, what motivates them has to be something more than money. I decided to ask, if the opportunity presented itself.

When my turn came, my name was called and a short, stern-faced cherubic woman, courteously referred to as “Nurse Bev” or “Sister Bev,” escorted me into the nurse’s office.

When you enter Nurse Bev’s office, the soft strains of gospel music play just above the realm of conscious awareness. The first thing you notice about her is her soothing West Indian accent that reminds you of your grandmother or a wise aunt. She is no nonsense — take care of business straight shooter. But, like the soothing atmosphere of her office, Nurse Bev exudes an under-current of compassion that quickly bubbles up to the surface, as she interviews you to ascertain your medical issues.

I took a deep breath and braved the deep waters to sincerely ask Nurse Bev why she chose to work for the CDCR, especially with all the other employment opportunities available to her. She looked at me with a serious expression and placed a piece of paper on her desk. She then drew three interconnecting circles on the paper. In literature it is a device, which name eludes me, that’s used to show overlapping events that relate to each other.

In the first circle, she wrote the word “nurse”, in the last she wrote “community”, and in the center circle, she wrote the word “patient”. Using her pencil, in the same way a professor would a pointer, she said in her soft, Caribbean accent, “This is the model I live by,” she began. “The nurse and the community come together to heal the patient. It doesn’t matter what the status of the patient is. What is important is the process of healing. It does not matter to me who I am treating, whether someone is the highest of the high or the lowest of the low; I give them the same level of care I would give someone in my own family.”

It is easy to witness that Nurse Bev is a very spiritual person with a deep sense and abiding love for the Lord, Jesus Christ. As she asks her patient to detail their medical complaints, her speech is laced with gospel references and hosannas of praise. “I ask God to protect me from the bad people,” she said. “And not all the bad people are behind walls.” After a brief pause, she continued. “I also ask the Lord to protect me from you, and I ask Him to protect you from me,” she says with a laugh. Sobering quickly, she solemnly finishes, “But most importantly, I ask Him to protect me from me.” Anyone speaking to Nurse Bev knows she isn’t making any malevolent inferences. It is a prayer.

“This is not the first prison I’ve worked at. But this is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Then she quickly finished taking my vitals and getting the pertinent information she needed to recommend the treatment to follow. She dropped one more bomb just before I walked out the door.

“I’m also involved in prison ministry work,” she revealed. “But, I do this job because I love it. I do it because I care.”

Amen, Sister Bev, we’re fortunate and blessed to have someone here that does…

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