A dedicated caregiver retires
She gave two-thirds of her life to the profession – a fact that friends and colleagues point out when they say Blondelle Mullin, with her infectious smile and caring heart, truly loves nursing.
It was the common thread in the messages of well-wishers who gathered at Almond Bay over the weekend to wish Mullin a happy farewell into retirement, after 40 years of nursing Barbadians and others who came under her care.
Speaking at the Saturday night function, Chief Nursing Officer, Dr Wendy Sealy reported on the expressions of colleagues and others in the health care fraternity, upon hearing of Mullins’ retirement: “A beautiful person with a kind heart” was one sentiment. “I wonder what I would do now that she is gone” was another.
Sealy, who sits with Mullin on the National HIV/AIDS Commission, spoke of the nurse’s “apparent ability to remain unruffled even under immense pressure” and contrasted that demeanour with the other side of her persona.
“She is not one who is afraid to speak her mind . . . she is one that you want in your corner to lend support when the going gets tough.”
One person who should know that for sure is her husband, Ewald Mullin, who has been at her side since they struck up a relationship in 1978.
“I spent 36 of the 40 years of her nursing career with her . . . she really enjoyed nursing. During those years she seldom complained about the amount of work. Apart from her family, nursing was her life,” he said.
Revealing an aspect of a health care worker’s life that the public does not see, he spoke about his wife coming home many times “sad and a little depressed if a patient died on her shift”.
But taking in all the accolades with the typical pleasant smile, Mullin said, “the high points overshadow the frustrating moments”.
“It was always a good feeling to hear someone who was on a ventilator on the unit shout you out in town and you knew you contributed to their healing. Throughout my nursing career I truly enjoyed it and gave of my best. My patients were the best; they were thankful and showed appreciation.”
Even for a person as affable as Mullin, the experience was not without its irritants.
“It was the relatives and the general public who were the problem and made you feel frustrated sometimes and wonder if you needed to endure it. But I surely did [endure].”
Mullin’s early and “best” years in the nursing profession, by her account, were at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
“Even now I miss the shift duty, as it was flexible to get certain activities accomplished, depending on your shift and days off in the week,” she recalled.
The long serving nurse also admitted she had preferred patients and duties.
“My favourite patients were surgical patients, especially on Ward B7, [when I would do] dressing until the back ached,” she said, adding, that she also enjoyed performing critical care nursing on Ward A3 and in the Surgical Intensive Care Nursing Unit (SICU).
“Even though I requested a change to public health nursing the first few years, I really missed SICU. The work was hard but we enjoyed it,” she said.
But this flag bearer of Florence Nightingale principles might not have been a caregiver had her dreams become reality more than 40 years ago.
“My intention after realizing that I could not be the fantasy airhostess that we all wanted to be, to travel often . . . was to be a secretary. After training in shorthand and typing, I realized I did not like the shorthand, but the typing I could handle,” Mullin recalled.
Her decision to abandon that path turned out to be a good thing for Barbados’ health care sector.
“After applying to the Public Service Commission to train in general nursing, I received a call to train as a nurse . . . not being very adventurous and risky I said [to myself] I started nursing so I will continue and made it to [last Friday],” Mullin said in reference to her retirement date.
Reflecting on the early days of her training, she added: “I remember when we lived in the nursing home, one of our wardens said that she did nursing for 25 years, and we all said ‘25 years? Wha not me, I can’t see myself doing one job for 25 years!’ And here I am, 40 years later.”