PEP’s intervention provides welcome change at JNF Hospital’s psychiatric unit

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS — When the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis launched the People Employment Programme (PEP) in late December last year, it was well aware of the huge task ahead confronting the person who would head the new programme.

For a programme that was tasked to empower the youth, the person that could fit that billing would be someone who understood the youth, and there was not a better person than Mr Geoffrey Hanley who understands the youth of the country like the back of his hand, because he is the Director of Youth.

Mr Hanley, who is the People Employment Programme’s Project Manager, has the sixth sense when it comes to matters dealing with the youth. He was able to identify the talents of a youthful Kittitian who had come to the PEP office and was employed as a gardener at the Cardin Home.

In his wisdom, Mr Hanley plucked that young man from the Cardin Home and sent him to train as a nursing attendant at the JN France General Hospital. While some persons were apprehensive, thinking that what Mr Hanley did was a mistake, he has proved them wrong, because the youth he spotted has proven every of his sceptics very wrong.

This is the story of Javin Maynard. When he applied to join PEP, he stated that he had a love to be a caregiver. He was however taken to the Cardin Home as a gardener. When Mr Hanley approached the Ministry of Health to have PEP partner with it to train nursing attendants, he recommended that Javin Maynard, and George Prentice (also at the Cardin Hone as a gardener) to be included in the programme.

The two did not let Mr Hanley down because they passed the entrance interview conducted by the no-nonsense, but friendly, JNF Hospital’s Clinical Instructor Mrs Sandra Lestrade-Caines. When the course started history was made because it was the largest group ever trained, with 29 participants, and for the first time there were four male students.

29 PEP-sponsored trainees started the six-week course, and all of them graduated. Javin Maynard held the fifth position with a pass rate of 86.2%. There was not a more excited person than Mr Geoffrey Hanley, who was vindicated by the two young men he had plucked from their gardening jobs at the Cardin Home.

And Geoffrey Hanley’s dream did not end with that ringing vindication. He still sees more ahead for the young men. He said at their graduation ceremony: “With the right attitude, I know I would be seeing many of you down at CFBC.” The other two males in the class were Roland Marryshow and Jareem Huggins.

Minister of Health, the Hon Marcella Liburd, who was at the graduation ceremony said: “As minister responsible for Gender, we are very happy to have our four males, including Javin Maynard and George Prentice who both came into the programme as gardeners at the Cardin Home.

“They came in as gardeners and look at where they are today in a short time. They are now graduating as nursing attendants and I want to tell you and all the others that this is really your first step in the door. So you will go as high as you want to go. There is nothing to stop you.”

Mrs Sandra Lestrade-Caines, who was happy that Mr Geoffrey Hanley had approached the hospital to have the 29 trained, said: “This programme will be entered in the annals of history as the first batch of nursing attendants to be trained for the People Employment Programme and the largest group of nursing attendants trained in St. Kitts and Nevis, and for the training of the first nursing attendants of the masculine gender.”

After the graduation, the four males were quickly grabbed by the hospital for work, and today the JN France General Hospital is thankful that they have them. If Geoffrey Hanley had not spotted them, the hospital would not be saying any of that, and those men would be like any ordinary young people in the population.

“The four young men who were recently trained as nursing attendants have been employed by the institutional-based health care services as psychiatric aides,” advised Mrs Sonia Daly-Finley, Director of Institutional Nursing Services. “They would be assisting the nurses on the psychiatric unit to care for patients with mental disorders.”

According to Mrs Daly-Finley, for the four to be effective they would have to be trained in mental illnesses so as to appreciate, and to care for patients with mental illnesses. She noted that a programme was being developed to further train them in psychiatric illnesses, which will be done in-house by the psychiatrist doctor, in-service education personnel and other members of staff.

No one fully appreciates the impact of the four young men’s presence on the psychiatric unit than the staff there. Staff Nurse Mrs Mfon Oyebefun was available for comment.

“In psychiatric ward we are so grateful to these four young gentlemen working with us,” she said. “They are of immense help. Actually I have seen that the patients know that there is presence of men in the ward and they are behaving properly as they are very conscious of it.

“And actually when we have to give patients injections, when we have emergencies like aggressiveness we have to look around for orderlies but when they (psychiatric aides) are present with us and they help and it makes work smooth and we are very confident.”

According to Mrs Oyebefun, with the presence of those men, “you find that we can now have group sessions and activities are much more. They could play games with them (patients) in little groups or tell stories or interview them and have some educational time with them to enlighten them more. The four are quite active because of their youthfulness, and as a result the psychiatric ward is more lively than it used to be, and is full of activities.”

With a man like Mr Geoffrey Hanley around, the youth in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis have a bright future ahead of them.

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