Mereani Tukana Nursing On At 72

Six years ago, she thought she had called it quits, but that did not last long.
17 May 2020 09:41
Mereani Tukana Nursing On At 72
Retired nurses and midwives Mereani Tukana (left) and Salome Bikai. Photo: Inoke Rabonu

You’re only young as your heart feels and 72-year-old nurse and midwife, Mereani Tukana, is living proof of this.

Six years ago, she thought she had called it quits, but that did not last long. She is currently being productive as a project officer and Fiji co-ordinator Diabetic Therapy for Pacific Eye Institute in Suva.

Memories of her younger days are still clear. She said they were challenging yet rewarding.

“I remember having to cross the river 11 times to get into the furthest village to conduct my clinical,” Ms Tukana said.

“We struggled back then, we had to walk miles and at times we were so thirsty that we had to open our vaccine flask to get the ice just to quench our thirst.”

The Buretu, Nakelo, Tailevu native was the Central Division manager nursing prior to her retirement in 2014.

She has not taken an exact count, but she estimates supervising more than a thousand child births. Destined to become a teacher, fate had other plans.

“My parents wanted me to become a teacher, but I fell in love with the work nurses do after caring for my sick grandfather,” she said.

Ms Tukana’s nursing education journey began at the Fiji School of Nursing in 1964 under the New Zealand curriculum.

“So when we qualified, we became New Zealand registered nurses,” she said.

“Back then we had two streams of student nursing available in Fiji.

“Those who did the New Zealand curriculum were being prepared to be nursing supervisors, so upon graduating we immediately became supervisors and sisters in hospitals.

“Then there were those that did the Fiji Curriculum; they became staff nurses. That was decades ago, today we just have one curriculum and to become a sister or supervisor you are promoted on merit.”

Ms Tukana has held varied roles in the profession including project work with JICA (Japan International Co-operation Agency) as a technical facilitator for safe motherhood under the Fijian health sector support group.

In 2015, Ms Tukana was involved in training nurses. Most of her students are senior staff nurses.

In total, she boasts more than 50 years of experience as a nurse and she has no regrets at all.

“The profession has raised mixed emotions. You are present when a baby is born into the world and you are also there when a person gives out his last breath,” she said.

Ms Tukana has been a widow for almost 30 years and apart from work she enjoys spending time with her three children and her grandchildren.

This year nurses from around the world celebrate the 200th year of the birth of the nursing profession.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: inoke.rabonu@fijisun.com.fj

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