The PAHO/WHO Office for Suriname spoke with Nurse Carol de Baas about the most recent challenge facing nurses – the decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
I always want to set an example for healthcare workers, especially young people."
Nurse Carol de Baas – Chief Nursing Officer at the Inspection of Nursing and Care Professions in Suriname, publicly received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on International Nurses Day, May 12th, 2021.
An example was indeed set by Nurse de Baas, as many colleagues joined her and followed in her footsteps after she got vaccinated against COVID-19. Being in public service for 30 years this year, Carol de Baas is well-known within the healthcare sector in Suriname and respected by many. PAHO was intrigued by her decision to get vaccinated publicly, in her nursing uniform on International Nurses Day and sat down for a virtual interview with her.
Your vaccination was widely covered and appreciated by the local media. Tell us about your choice to get vaccinated on International Nurses Day?
I always want to set an example for healthcare workers, especially young people, and I had noticed that many were still contemplating whether to get vaccinated or not. There is a lot of false information and fake news going around, and some people are fearful. I wanted to do my part by showing them that I am not afraid and that I’m taking my responsibility seriously by protecting myself and those around me. It was only a week before, that a nurse, who had not been vaccinated yet, died from COVID-19. It was also important to me that I had on my uniform on the day, to also make it clear to the public that their healthcare workers are getting vaccinated. Before the day arrived, I told all my colleagues and those I encountered within the health sector that I was going to get the vaccine and while some were still unsure, they told me it was very reassuring to them that I was getting it. After I got the vaccine, many healthcare workers indeed let me know that they went to get it too, just like I did. I told my co-workers that this way we are not only protecting ourselves and those around us, but we are also protecting the healthcare sector.
Where does your passion for inspiring (young) healthcare workers come from?
I started working at s’Lands Hospital in Paramaribo in 1991, 30 years ago. I was 24 years old, had been a teenage mom and wanted to be financially independent but did not have any experience in the healthcare sector. I started as a trainee, learned through on the job experience and worked my way up. Later that year, the educational tracks were going to start and only the 5 best trainees would be selected. I was one of those 5 and simultaneously studied and worked to become a licensed nurse. After 15 years, in 2006, I remember applying for a position at the Department of Inspection of Nursing and Care Professions in Suriname although feeling not entirely sure if I qualified for the position. To my surprise, and with immense gratitude to those who had encouraged me to apply, I got the job. I went on to work at various subsections within the Department such as the inpatient, outpatient, and education management.
In 2017, I was appointed Head of the Inspection of Nursing and Care Professions in Suriname. In the meantime, I also finished my Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. Looking back, it was a long road and it was not easy, but thinking back to 24-year-old me, starting from the bottom, I like to tell young people that if I did it, they can do it too.
What are some of the challenges within the healthcare system?
We need a database for our nursing and care professionals, especially now that they are getting scarcer. We cannot keep track of the number of these professionals in Suriname, nor is there a central information system where we can see who is working where. With hospitals now in code Black, and healthcare staff are being deployed to different facilities or COVID-19 care departments, knowing exactly who is available and who is stationed at which location, would be extremely helpful to better respond to the current crisis as well as in the future. We are now working with PAHO on this initiative.
How has PAHO been of assistance to better facilitate the nursing and care professionals during the pandemic?
I cannot say a negative word about the relationship with PAHO. In the current pandemic PAHO has been an invaluable partner. PAHO’s involvement during this crisis has made a big difference, as well as the donations of many PPE items. At the beginning, we were not even sure we were going to need the PPE, but as the virus progressed, we were extremely grateful we had enough on hand.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. In conclusion, we would like to know what achievement in your 30-year career in healthcare, you are most proud of?
When I worked in the subsection Education, in the department of Inspection of Nursing and Care Professionals, a notable achievement was streamlining the duration of the educational track from secondary school to becoming a licensed nurse on the same level of the CARICOM. In Suriname, the duration was first 4 years. Now that the education has been streamlined, it takes 3 years. This is something I am very proud of, because when I became a nurse, it wasn’t streamlined yet and I just knew it would make such a difference for the students. Together with the Director of COVAB, we worked on this project tirelessly and it took a couple of years, but in the end we succeeded.
An amazing achievement indeed! Thanks again for your continuous contribution in Nursing and Care in Suriname and for taking the time to chat with us.