Cynthia Pitter is Making a difference

Cynthia Pitter is Making a difference

CYNTHIS PITTER is a nurse and a midwife who is a catalyst for change, passionate about preventing gender-based violence, an advocate of sexual and reproductive health across genders, an avid proponent of respectful maternity care and adolescent care.

Cynthia PitterCynthia Pitter was born in Tucker District, Montego Bay, where she told All Woman she got her first practice in nursing from caring for family members and her community.

“Whenever my siblings became ill they would always turn to me for help if there were no adults at home. I remember there was a gentleman who was gravely ill in the community and needed urgent wound care, and I was so moved to do something about it that I told my principal, Sister Joan Claire at Mount Alvernia High School, about him. She gave me dressings and lotions and sponges to assist him. My relatives and the man’s relatives were so impressed at what I did,” she said.

From there Cynthia Pitter said she knew she had a calling for nursing, and upon leaving Mount Alvernia she told her friends who were enthused about becoming mothers that she would deliver their babies.

This, she said, led her to start working at Cornwall Regional Hospital as a HEART trainee in the Medical Records Department, before transitioning into nursing a year later at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) School of Nursing where she did midwifery for 16 years before moving on to advanced nursing administration, after which she pursued a master’s in nursing education.

“I left UHWI to the UWI School of Nursing, Mona, in 2009. I have always wanted to teach nursing/midwifery, and transitioning to UWI has helped me to better my craft,” she said.

Now a registered nurse, a registered midwife and certified nurse administrator, Pitter is also the first nurse/midwife to be doing a doctorate degree in gender studies.

“My academic growth and development has been tremendous. I am now a PhD student in gender studies. My studies have helped me to be more focused and to make a difference in the lives of women and those who are vulnerable,” she said.

Additionally, Cynthia Pitter has begun publishing research and presenting at international conferences and will soon visit the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on a scholarship to pursue a short course in research methods for sexual reproductive health care workers.

But she explained that pursuing this new frontier in academia came as a result of witnessing gender-based violence in her life and profession.

“When I was growing up we always heard a man who was always intoxicated beating his wife, and it was entertainment for the community. No one was perturbed. You didn’t even know there was a name for it,” she said.

“When I became a nurse and cared for people on the ward, people were being admitted for domestic violence but it was not recorded as that. For example, you would see a hit on the arm or broken arm by a ‘known assailant’. In nursing and midwifery there’s need for us to be trained in terms of identifying these issues. It’s not just about protecting the woman, but also their children who will grow up harbouring anger. When a nurse is well educated she can do so much to reduce maternal and infant mortality. When we invest in women we give back. The midwife’s role is more than that of a sexual reproductive health care practitioner; it involves us as the researcher, teacher, advocate. We resolve conflicts and empower families to care for the next generation.”

Pitter said as a nurse/midwife, doing her PhD has helped her to work with other agencies such as various women’s groups and NGOs that seek to better the lives of individuals, especially those who are vulnerable, for example, the Golden Age Home, feeding of street people, and counselling women in crisis.

She also said that a priority for her is to push the research agenda in midwifery in Jamaica and the region in order to influence policy and enhance the quality of care.

Currently, Pitter is shortlisted to be one of the directors for the family planning association. She is a member of the Nursing Council of Jamaica and the midwifery educator for the Jamaica Midwives’ Association. She is also a trustee and a member of the education committee for the Caribbean Regional Midwives’ Association, and she represents nursing at the West Indies Group of University Teachers at Mona.

Pitter also assists with the coordinating of the Young Midwifery Leadership Programme — an initiative of the International Confederations of Midwives.

“This is an 18-month programme geared towards nurturing a culture of leadership that will facilitate the delivery of continuous improvement of high quality, safe and compassionate maternity care as top priority in the region,” she said.

Also a mother and a Christian, Pitter enjoys family time with her daughter Gabrielle and her husband Granville and looks forward to teaching children and young teens at her church.

“The main lesson is that each person has so much potential, so the key is to nurture that potential, believe in them. One has to inspire the students, mentor them, and watch them develop. That is what my teachers did for me and I want to return the favour to my students at church and at school,” she said.

Cynthia Pitter believes that midwifery is an independent, woman-centred profession where gender issues play a key role.

“Midwifery care must be guided by research and the best available evidence. I believe that caring is central to midwifery practice; without caring, the nurse cannot connect with the patient. If the nurse cannot connect, trust will not develop. As nurses/midwives we must always remember that the process of care is a partnership with a client, and to always have a team attitude of treating others as you would like to be treated.”

Pitter said her philosophy is that a nurse is not just a person in a uniform, but an individual who could make a profound difference in another person’s life.

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