She was born for this!
Doctor Helen Nangula Nkandi-Shiimi is a true model of women who tap in the power of the mind. Through innovation, creativity and dare-devil courage, she has managed to rise to establish and run her own private medical care centre in Windhoek after leaving the public sector.
Two decades in the medical field has prepared her to take the going solo head-on, 16 of which were spent working for the State; first as an intern, then medical officer, principal medical officer and senior medical superintendent of Katutura State Hospital and finally and as a senior medical superintendent of Windhoek Central Hospital. For the last three years, she has been on her own, providing general medical services to the community and occupational medicine services to some companies.
“My passion since childhood has been taking care of others, especially the needy and the vulnerable. I also like to give hope to people and I strongly believe this is the driving force that directed me into this medical profession,” says Dr Nkandi-Shiimi.
As a private medical doctor, she says her job entails planning, co-ordinating and providing medical services to patients.
“I was fortunate to have been exposed to a very difficult working environment during the time I worked for the State in Tsumeb and then Okamhaku, now Outapi Hospital where I worked alone for 24 hours around the clock for a very long period. As a result of that firm background, I can now do many things a general practitioner does and my occupational medicine background makes my work very easy and manageable,” she beams.
Dr Shiimi has scored many firsts; she was the first female principal medical officer to lead the Tsumeb District Hospital; the first black female medical superintendent of Katutura State Hospital and the very first female to lead the national referral hospital (Windhoek Central Hospital).
“I am happy that with little or no help, I was able to set up my own practice in the Windhoek Central Business District (CBD) area and to run it the way I do now,” she states.
She says shifting from being a public servant to the private sector has been a great learning curve as the working conditions differ for the two environments; as in a State hospital, one has a fixed salary and in a private one, you are your own master.
“There are a lot of challenges encountered within the private medical sector, which include, amongst the list, uncertainty - as in any other corporate institution. Here, the customer is the king and this is how it should be. You are your own master and you do things the way you know how. The rewards are good if you work smart and hard and the opposite is also true,” she asserts.
She advices aspiring successful business owners that one needs to be passionate about what they do and what they want to achieve. They need to have a vision and a good plan in directing how their businesses should look like when they eventually reach their goals. She urges them to never shy away from asking questions and soliciting pieces of advice from trustworthy people who have been in the business longer than them.
Future plans to expand her medical centre into an Emergency Care and Trauma Centre or even a hospital as part of her long-term ambitions, are underway.
She explains: “As for my occupational health part, I would like to collaborate with enthusiastic groups of colleagues in this field and set up a Namibian Institute for Occupational Health Safety and Hygiene and Environment that would collaborate with international partners, especially other institutions of the world that do a similar job. In this endeavor, we will raise awareness and eventually train Namibians in those fields and most importantly, provide services to the industries in our country.”
She says she cannot tell what a typical day for her in her field looks like because sickness just attacks patients unexpectedly anytime in their lives and she does not have control on the routines, sicknesses and the frequency in which patients come in.
“There is really no typical day for me as such, because in medicine, there are no routines; sicknesses are not planned for, they just occur unexpectedly. One cannot, therefore, plan what patients in that same condition will present to them the next day. Thus, one has got to always be ready to tackle what they can. What is most important is that they must be ready, get the right attitude and be quick to respond to the patients,” she points out adding that her power principles are: “Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. Learning never ends as we always learn something from everyone in every situation, be it good or bad. Be kind but firm, be fair and apply justice while believing in God. Be prepared to serve and share your knowledge with others, especially those in your field. Do not go to the grave with that knowledge!” PF