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By Svetlana Marshall
More than 28 years after joining one of the world’s most noble professions – Nursing – 51-year-old Karen Knox is on the verge of graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing but the journey as a working, single-parent mother was filled with many challenges but in the end, it has proven to be rewarding.
“No one has traveled the road of success, without crossing the streets of failure. God never promised us an easy journey, he only promised us a great destination,” Nurse Knox said as she sat down for an interview with the Village Voice Newspaper.
While she is in line to graduate from the University of Guyana with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BScN) (Credit) on February 5, 2022, her journey started close to three decades ago in 1992.
Born and bred in the mining town of Linden (Region 10), Knox said from a tender age she developed a deep love for the Nursing profession.
“From a very young age, I knew what I wanted to become. I wanted to become a nurse, and if you are wondering why? It was because as a child, I always admired nurses in their white uniforms. In my mind those nurses looked good,” she said.
With her eyes set on Nursing, Knox graduated from the Wismar Christianburg Multilateral School, however, at age 18 she became a teen mother to a beautiful baby girl – Latoya Knox.
“I was lucky to have her, still lucky to have her,” she said.
But two months after giving birth to her daughter in December 1989, Knox’s mother died, and the help she knew was no more.
Determined, nonetheless, to fulfill her dream, she applied to study nursing at the three Nursing Schools in the country with the hope that she would be accepted to at least one.
“I was then invited to an interview at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing, after that interview I was offered a position to be trained as a Nursing Assistant and that was the Year 1992, March 23,” she recalled as she walked down memory lane.
But taking up the offer at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing, meant that she would have to leave her daughter behind.
“It was a bit of joy to begin my career but sadness took over knowing that I had to leave my baby girl behind, and not fully overcoming the fact that my mom was called home,” Knox said.
But with the support of her family members, Knox was able to kick start her career while ensuring at the same time, her daughter was provided with the necessary care in her absence.
“I continue to give thanks to the caring family, who believe in the motto together we stand and even as I speak the family ties remain very close. My sister, Sharon, took care of my daughter as her very own and endured sleepless nights in my absence,” she said.
With much pride, she added: “Today, that child is now 32 years old and has taken up the very career as I did, and is employed at the St. Joseph Mercy’s Hospital as a Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife, BScN Nursing Supervisor and she is no other than Latoya Knox-Thompson.”
Upon completing her studies, Knox was assigned to the New Amsterdam Hospital where she worked in the various wards, and in the process developed a number of genuine friendships. As stipulated back then, she was required to work at the New Amsterdam Psychiatric Hospital for a period of one year before commencing her outstation stint at the West Demerara Regional Hospital in May 1996.
In 1997, she was transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) based on a request she submitted. Her transfer meant that she would be closer to home, and would be able to spend much more time with her daughter, who was 7-years-old at the time.
“Throughout those years, I travelled from New Amsterdam to Linden, and when I was reassigned, it was from West Dem to Linden, then Georgetown to Linden, whenever I was off duty, to ensure that I play my party in my daughter’s life not only as a mother but as a single parent,” she said.
Like at New Amsterdam Hospital, Knox worked various units at the Georgetown Public Hospital where she gained invaluable experience.
“After serving quite a number of years as a Nursing Assistant among the various units at the Georgetown Public Hospital, which would include Accident and Emergency, Intensive Care Unit, Burnt Care Unit, Male and Surgical Unit, I then applied to be trained as a Midwife,” she said.
Knox was accepted into the Midwifery Programme in 2007, which she successfully completed in 2008. From 2008 to 2015, she served as a Midwife at the Maternity Ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital. But being a Midwife, though rewarding, Knox wanted to make her mark as a Nurse, and as such, she registered into the RN Programme at the Georgetown School of Nursing. In 2018, she graduated and returned to the Maternity Unit as a Registered Nurse, Midwife.
Inspired by her daughter and those who went before her, Nurse Knox applied to the University of Guyana in 2019 to read for her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and was accepted.
“I didn’t want to waste anymore time. It was a challenge for me to get into the Registered Nursing Programme but once I did, there was no stopping. I persevered, and so I took up the next big challenge, studying for my degree,” she said.
She added: “Another thing, I have worked hard to maintain my daughter as a single parent, I have seen her through her education, and I felt that it was time for me to do it for myself, and so today, I thank God for giving me that strength to move forward.”
Nurse Knox enlisted two of her colleagues, and together, they worked tirelessly to ensure their success.
“It wasn’t an easy road. Working and studying is nothing easy. And being placed at the time in the Labour Room of the Maternity Unit is no easy place to work. I remember the first semester working the night shift, having no sleep at all during the night and then having to get ready from the hospital to attend classes at the university, by 12pm my eyes were closing,” she shared.
But just when she was adjusting to the classes, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Guyana in March 2020. “I am not tech savvy, so when everything changed to on-line, it became even more challenging but thanks to my daughter, son-in-law, my nieces and two colleagues, I overcame those challenges one assignment at a time,” she said.
Today, she is thankful, not only for the successes recorded over the years, but for the support system that she continues to enjoy, that helped her overcome her many challenges.
“I think in all my programmes I had so my challenges; first my mom passed, in the second programme, which is my midwifery programme, if it wasn’t for my colleagues in that batch, I think I would have surely quit because my father was very ill, and I had to be managing the books, as well as still taking the time out to take care of him. I had the other family members but being the one in the profession, I had to be there.
During my years of doing the registered programme, my nephew was not enjoying the best of health; he passed on last year – I had to be between school and the hospital and I must show my gratitude to the tutors who always understood me and what I was going through,” she said.
At times, it appeared more than she could have borne but was always reminded that God would see her through.
“I said Lord you promised never to give us more than we can bear and my daughter would normally say, he sees your shoulders are strong enough to bear it,” she said.
Today, much like her daughter, she is a Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife with a BScN managing the Female High Dependency Unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital.