One word. Numerous meanings.
You see, I am a sister to four wonderful siblings. Born and raised in Catholic, at some point I wanted to be a sister. I grudgingly was a sister in Kenya. Once again, I am hopeful to be a sister. And in African-American culture, sister has a whole new meaning altogether.
While the first two meanings are obvious, it gets confusing with the third and fourth. Let me explain with an extremely brief lesson in history. Long long time ago the quintessential British nurse was a female nun and perhaps this is why the name sister and nurse became synonymous. I don’t know how the name was adopted in Kenya but my mind goes to colonialism.
In Kenya, as nurses, especially the cool nurses we are, being called sister is almost an insult. I often found myself explaining to colleagues that I am not a nun and that my name is Getrude. In fact I wore my name tag religiously for this reason, a habit I have carried to date. This however did not stop patients from calling me sister and eventually I threw in the towel and accepted the title with a heavy heart.
Fast forward, I am in an environment where a ward sister is the next level. They take charge of the shifts and will be steering the ship through storms while maintaining their calm. They are problem solvers and have answers for doctors, us ordinary nurses, patients and patients’ relatives alike. They even have a different uniform for this level of responsibility.
Would I like the title now? Yes, please!
In that case, what is it that makes the same thing distasteful in one place and appealing in another?
I am yet to find the right answer to this question. The only thing that has come to mind so far is that our external environment determines our internal environment. Circumstances and people in our surrounding determine how we feel and how we see the world. Can we then take control of our happiness by choosing who we interact with and places we stay in?
Also, in case you were wondering, male nurses can become ward sisters too, only that they are called charge nurse. Maybe its time for gender equality in nursing, but this is story for another day.