The name Tendai means gratitude and for St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital Clinical Nurse Tendai Kanyimo, privileged and grateful is something he feels every day.
For the last five years, Tendai has worked within the hospital’s operating theatre team and has seen out more than 12 years in his industry.
Tendai says it’s a great joy to work with so many talented surgeons and such a passionate team.
“We have such a diverse and dynamic group of people here; some have been with the hospital for a year, some for five, ten and 20 years. We have come from different backgrounds and cultures but at the core of us all, we have the same mindset in common; to look after our patients”, says Tendai.
Tendai grew up with his family in Zimbabwe and came to Australia to study biomedical science and says he decided to stay because of the endless opportunities Australia presented him with.
As he cast his mind back to the moment he decided nursing would be his career, he chuckled.
“Towards the end of my studies and staring down a microscope lens...for hours, and realised that I didn’t find that fulfilling - to spend a whole day staring into apparatus and machines.
“When I realised I didn’t have joy for that kind of life I started thinking about working closely with people rather than then working in a lab situation - the thought of making a contribution to getting someone well again, that really moved me.”
Tendai says his managers have been instrumental in his development as a clinical nurse and in creating the culture at St Andrew’s that keeps everyone together.
“Sometimes the biggest challenges you can face is stepping up into leadership or in training others. Self-doubt can be scary, but when I wasn’t sure of myself, my team stepped up to give me confidence.
“Recently I did some volunteer work with Mercy Ships. Part of my role was to assist surgeons in the operating theatre as they treated children with cleft palates and facial tumours. St Andrew’s helped me to do that. The knowledge and skills I obtained at the hospital allowed me to do the work.”
Tendai says there have been so many ‘favourite’ moments across his nursing years.
“We have one patient that comes every six months to have a procedure done; she will likely need to have surgery for the rest of her life. The procedure is needed to allow her to keep doing her usual daily tasks and every time she comes in she’s so excited to see the same people. We’re usually the same team and she’s grateful to have that consistency of care and to build relationships with us.
“I remember another time I was working closely with the mother and father of an infant baby girl who was born deaf, and the family had made the decision to proceed with a cochlear implant. The parents were so grateful to talk about her options - the trust they had in us to look after their child, it was a privilege.
“Because of the success of the implant, she was able to begin developing her speech. When you can't hear it’s so hard to develop speech but with her hearing restored, it made huge improvements to the family dynamics in being able to connect and to the future opportunities she’ll have to interact with the world.”
You can’t help but feel the sense of pride within Tendai.
“It’s more than a job - it’s a calling. When you choose the operating theatre, you’re in it for the long haul. We embrace everyone no matter where they have come from. There is a true acceptance regardless of who you might be, or what you might have been before.”
Tendai says he’s very grateful for the culture in his team, and that has been key to working through more recent challenging times.
“There are more precautions in place now but it has forced us to review who we are – our team. As long as patients are coming through the door, we will keep showing up.
“If anything, I’ve seen this bring out the best in our people and it’s given us new opportunities to put our hands up for further upskilling in ICU. It’s shown us again how passionate we are about learning despite the risks, and that we still choose to come to work because we want to make a difference.”
To the point of nurses being brave during the pandemic, Tendai says he’s grateful to think that people thinking highly of his profession and says, ‘it’s easy to be brave when you love what you do.”