Kwabena Agyeman, RN
Kwabena Agyeman, RN
Q: What inspired you to become a nurse?
A: In 1991, I was hired as a home health aide for a bed-bound patient diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I cared for him for six years. I was like a nurse to him, bathed him, cooked his meals. I even did his finances and ran his errands. I was his primary caregiver–his unofficial health proxy. He wouldn’t let anyone do any medical procedures without me being present. That’s when I developed a passion to become a nurse.
When he passed, I started my training at Lehman College, and moved on to Seton Hall where I completed my nursing degree. While obtaining my degree, I worked at NY Presbyterian, White Plains Campus as a psychiatric technician. I went on to work there as a graduate nurse for one year and then for one year as a registered nurse.
Q: What brought you to Calvary?
A: I felt confined as a psychiatric nurse. I decided that I needed to do more, so I got a job at Calvary Hospital. Now I’ve been here 13 years.
Q: Why did you decide to care for people at the end of life?
A: I tell my friends, life is very short. Money can’t save you. Your personality can’t save you. We all have to love one another. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have or your social standing in society. We are all treated equally when it comes to death. The outcome is always the same.
Calvary has changed my whole perspective on life. I tell friends that I meet at church that we celebrate birth, but we don’t like to talk about death.
Q: Describe the most memorable experience you ever had with a patient or family member at Calvary.
A: Rosalee was diagnosed with breast cancer and there was a huge tumor the size of a football on her chest, so her movement was limited. She weighed only 80 lbs. and was very frail and cachectic (emaciated). She knew me and she would yell my name across the room in the nursing station as soon as I would walk on the unit.
Rosalee required a lot of attention. She was alone and she didn’t have any family. I made sure that I made her comfortable, fed her, talked to her and administered medications that would make her comfortable. She could have been my mother–my mom was only 56 when she died–so I felt personally involved in her care. Rosalee was a wonderful person. She went through a lot and she still managed to have a good sense of humor. In spite of everything, she was thankful.
Another memorable patient was Mr. Manny, a policeman from the 49th precinct. Manny was with us for a month. He had 9/11-related brain cancer glioblastoma. He was alert when he was first admitted, and then over the next couple weeks declined.
During the time he was able to communicate, in spite of everything he was going through, Manny would never admit he was uncomfortable. I would ask him, and he would still deny it. He would find the time to ask me about myself and make jokes. He was more concerned about everyone other than himself.
Q: What qualities are essential to be a Calvary nurse?
A: I pray during the day, and I ask for God’s guidance and strength and the patience to go through the shift every day. If you ask me what advice I’d give to a new nurse, the first thing I’d say is to not cut corners during your shift, have patience with the patients and families, and do not take things personally.
Don’t shy away from the challenges. Do things right and be very thorough. Learn the trade and be a patient advocate. Workaround the patient’s needs, which is the most important thing – money should never be your motivator. My son was hired this past January as a registered nurse. He works in the evening. I’m so proud that he is here and wants to help others. It’s gratifying to know he is following in my footsteps.