There is a general misconception that nursing is only about bedside care and dealing with patients in a hospital or clinic setting. This is why our next EXCEPTIONAL NURSE STORY is so important: it sheds light on this vital and multi-faceted profession.

Lauren Anderson started the journey of becoming a nurse at Stellenbosch University in 2003. Since qualifying at the end of 2006 she has spent her career working in different community clinics throughout South Africa, mobilizing and equipping others to administer quality healthcare. She is passionate about leadership development and systems management within the public healthcare sector. She is married to Mark and a beautiful, new mamma of a 5-month old little boy!

Lauren sat down with us on a wintery Tuesday night to chat about her experience as a qualified nurse and what makes her ‘tick’.   One of the first things she said was: “I am not your typical nurse”, making it very clear that we would be looking at a refreshing but unique perspective – the other side of the coin, so to speak.  Lauren is committed to the concept: ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime’. She believes in sustainable impact and how to make that happen.  While there are thousands of nurses on the frontline of nursing and medical care, Lauren is part of the team that runs the show from behind the scenes.  This is done through her ever-growing experience in project and systems management, equipping clinics and nurses to do their jobs effectively and efficiently on a long-term basis.  She is currently working on her Masters Degree in Public Health Systems while managing a Training and Implementation Team for a Health Systems Strengthening Research Unit.

It is easy to see that at the base of her in-depth skill in leadership and training lies a gentle and compassionate heart, dedicated to building a system which will generate authentic social justice through public healthcare. She embodies the qualities of what one would consider an ‘exceptional nurse’ and injects them into empowering and uplifting healthcare teams as a whole.

After more than 10 years in this position, when asked what gives her the most fulfilment and joy in her job, her answer was: seeing nurses individually and collectively empowered and enabled to realize their full potential within the profession. It is vitally important to have people who are passionate about this!   No matter how inspired our ideas may be, they are useless without an effective healthcare management system in place.  The foundation must be strong and Lauren works tirelessly to ensure this.

As we near the end of our interview Lauren speaks about thriving in a place where her gift of mercy and leadership combine. We can see how she has made a deeply significant impact on those around her.  Although the challenge is vast with many community clinics currently under-staffed and under-resourced, we were filled with hope knowing that we have exceptional nurses like Lauren, as beacons of light in every sector of the profession.

I was so inspired after our evening with Lauren! I had been churning over the word ‘mercy’ in the days leading up to our meeting and I wasn’t too sure why. I questioned what this word means in our society today, what does it look like? How do we live it out? It’s a beautiful word that seems to carry such weight, but why? I decided to do some research and discovered that mercy is often described as ‘compassion shown by someone in power or authority’. This could not be more important when caring for those who physically cannot care for themselves. Lauren is presently not in direct contact with patients each day, but dedicated to equipping and teaching those who are. And if compassion is something that grows in the heart, it is a seed that needs to be planted and nourished. I came away from this meeting with a quote in mind by Frederick Buechner that I feel captures Lauren so well: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

This article was written by: Shayley Basson