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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to commend all its essential service workers for their dedication and commitment in providing services to the DUT community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DUT’s Communications team’s Simangele Zuma spoke to Dr Vasanthrie Naidoo, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Nursing and the leader of the Education Wing of DUT’s COVID-19 Response Task Team.

Q: Please tell me about your journey at DUT?

A: “My journey with DUT goes way back to 2010, when I was a Master’s student and then subsequently a Doctoral student. Although at that time I was employed at another Nursing Education Institution, we did have to collaborate with DUT, in terms of research and academic development for staff and students. I joined DUT as a Senior Lecturer in early 2017. Initially, I was based at the Indumiso Nursing Campus and then I was transferred to the Durban Nursing Campus.”

Q: How long have you been in that role?

A: “I taught Critical Care Nursing since 2006 and have been involved in cross-border teaching and nurse education as well. Joining DUT in 2017, has further expanded my academic profile and opened me up to the world of Nursing Research, networking and other national and international collaborations. It certainly has helped me to draw from my experiences, enabling me to shape and possibly mould the mindsets and thinking of our current generation of nurses and nursing students. I acted as the Head of Department: Nursing for a while but have since resumed my role as Head of Programme.”

Q: Describe yourself in five words?

A: “Gosh, not enough words in the dictionary! On a serious note, I am a family-first, spiritual, hardworking, helpful, dedicated, fun-loving, grounded, motivated, goal-driven kind of person.”

Q: How has it been like working during COVID-19?

A: “Working from home has its inherent challenges. You actually forget your role at times. You basically take “multi-tasking” to a whole new level. Your hours are long and deadlines are endless. Being a lecturer comes with its challenges at a time when there are so many other challenges with multimodal platforms of teaching and learning. I think the saving grace is that, you are not alone, there are hundreds of people throughout the world that are feeling the same way, so I should not complain. 

Leading the COVID-19 Institutional Task-Team-Education Wing is such a wonderful opportunity with the main aim being to ensure that collectively, we can all help influence each individual to play a role in the response to COVID-19. Ultimately, we want to help keep faculties, staff, and students safe while they work and learn.

We work with a dedicated team of individuals and are continuously engaging with people who unselfishly give off their time and energy, just to try and keep the world safe. At a time like this, all that’s important is that we lend a helping hand where we can.”

Q: How do you deal with the fear of contracting COVID-19 and losing loved one due to the virus?

A: “Having lost friends, colleagues and family members to this pandemic, I know all too well the pain and devastation it causes. I thank God every day for his grace and for giving me the strength and courage to make a difference in the lives of all whom I serve.”

Q: Your typical day entails?

A: “My days are long. I am doing so many things in one go that I even surprise myself! That’s the beauty of having a nursing background, you learn the art of multitasking! It’s very busy with many student, staff meetings, online teaching sessions, administration duties, research supervision and attending other committee meetings. I ensure I still make time for my family.”

Q: What is your thought on the 3rd wave of COVID-19?

A: “Well, the shape of South Africa’s third wave largely depends on each and every one of us. Yes, we have already heard that the 3rd wave has hit many parts of the Free State and Northern Cape three weeks ago and started in Gauteng less than a fortnight ago. It is difficult to gauge the infection severity at this point in time, with this 3rd wave but whatever it looks like, we know it will cause death and hospitalisation and again put the healthcare system under pressure.

What we can do as responsible citizens is ensure that there is no time for complacency. We have learnt bitter lessons from the 1st and 2nd waves of this pandemic and our focus must now be on containment and ensuring that clusters of cases, related to a specific place or event, do not result in widespread community transmission. We must be able to contain infections at DUT and our behaviour remains key to preventing COVID-19. Monitoring, surveillance and outbreak response management is also vital to ensure we are able to closely track and respond appropriately.”

Q: Have you been vaccinated? What is your take on the vaccine?

A: “Yes, I have taken the vaccination. Vaccinations are a safe and effective way to prevent diseases and save lives. Putting it simply, if someone was throwing me a lifeline, why would I say no? It is my humble opinion that, COVID-19 is going to be around for a long time. What people need to understand is that the vaccine does not mean that a person may not contract COVID-19. What it means is that, should a person contract COVID-19, they would have better immunity allowing them to fight off the disease. This will further allow the person to delay their hospitalisation or chances of complications with the infection. One has to remember that immunity comes from the immune system’s ability to remember an infection. Using this immune memory, the body will know how to fight if it encounters the disease again.

Q: When not at work, what do you do for fun?

A: “I cook, I bake, recently started taking long walks again and I enjoy watching Indian movies.”

Q: If you were not a healthcare worker, what would you be and why?

A: “Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher and coming from humble beginnings, I didn’t really have the means to do that. Life seemed to take me in a roundabout way to do what I enjoy doing, impart knowledge. The best part is knowing, that there are individuals in all parts of the world using at least a tiny bit of that knowledge to make a difference in someone’s life.”

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