Brittany Darko On Being Nurse Of The Year

May 10, 2024 | 1 Comment

[Written by Patrick Bean]

Few would likely argue the deservedness of Brittany Darko in being named as the 2024 Nurse of the Year honouree.

Possessing a sparkling personality, technical know-how, and unmatched servant leadership, Darko simply could not be overlooked and, with a thirst to achieve more honours, appear on the 35-year-old healthcare worker’s trek towards the horizon.

As the successor to Renée Faulcon, a four-time nominee and immediate past president of the Bermuda Nurses Association, Ms Darko was both modest and grateful at being honoured by her peers.

“My immediate reaction was that I was shocked,” said Darko, a 2014 graduate of London South Bank University, who also possesses a bachelors degree in health and social care and applied psychology from University of Brighton. “I didn’t think I would get such an award so early in my career. I always knew that I worked hard, but I didn’t know that I would be recognised in such a big way.

“I’m humbled and feel honoured and privileged to have my name on the trophy along with all the other pioneers for nursing. Russ Ford, Gaynell Hayward-Caesar, Lynn Jackson, who is my CNO, Janice Wilson, a nurse epidemiologist; there’s just so many people who are much older in their careers now.

“Just to be on the same trophy as them feels great.”

Key to Darko being able to provide valuable care to patients is a genuine desire to aid in their recovery, regardless of status, race, condition, or prospects; when it comes to providing quality care Darko offers no concession.

“I think what it is about me is that I don’t compromise on the quality of care I provide to anyone,” said Darko, who hails from the White Hill. “Everybody I encounter I give my best. It doesn’t matter if they’re mean, they’re homeless, they’re a VIP, it doesn’t matter. I give my best regardless to everyone I encounter.

“And that includes my colleagues, my team. So, I think that makes me stand out. And I care and do what’s in the best interest for them.

“Whatever it is I do, I’m going to do it neatly. I’m going to do it correctly. I going to be inclusive with everyone I encounter and I’m going to use my personality as well to build relationship.”

The daughter of Marchelle Pitt, a postal worker who spent more than 30 years serving the local community, Darko likewise inherited the desire to provide service to her fellow man.

However, it took a tour of duty at a children’s hospital in Great Britain to provide the ultimate impetus for her to study nursing as a means of gaining a career.

“I think I’ve always known that I wanted to do something with health, but it was not until I did my degree in psychology and health and needed a job in the UK that I ventured into the nursing field,” she explained.

“I wanted just to work and I started out as a housekeeper at Great Ormond Street [Children’s] Hospital. I did that for three months and applied to be a cardiac healthcare assistant at Great Ormond Hospital and I got it. I did that for eight months and I was highly encouraged to become a nurse, because of my capacity to retain knowledge and to grow.

“I grew so quickly that other nurses encouraged me to become a nurse and I went and did it: I became a nurse.”

Asked about her attraction to serving sick people, Darko noted how she had always been a willing participant in performing necessary tasks others would eschew.

“I think it was just the ability to help,” she added. “I’ve always been a person who likes to serve. I like to clean up. I like to be in the background of thing. So, I’m that person who will clean off the table of trash, to serve others, so it was easy to me.

“I like to give quality care. I always thought that if I was sick I want this type of nurse. If my mom or my dad got sick I would want to have this type of nurse for them. And I like to learn, so I also thought that I could gain knowledge. And I had autonomy to be myself in building different relationships with all these different types of people.

“And you never stop learning. There’s always something to do, something to learn, something to gain, and I felt like I could do a lot.”

Even as many harboured fear and took to increased manners of isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, Darko flourished while accepting greater responsibilities, acceding to the notion that times of crisis foster opportunity.

Darko had not long become a part of the island’s team of Community Health Nurses when she was asked to assist on the frontlines of the pandemic with the Epidemiology & Surveillance Unit.

At first she assisted the Nurse Epidemiologist in her duties and shadowed her during key meetings. But when the demands of the unit increased, she took on more responsibility, first collecting routine health data, as well as investigating cases of illnesses other than the coronavirus.

“I was already in emergency and I came into community nursing in 2019 and had only been there for three months when I was reassigned to do Covid,” explained Darko. “I saw it as a learning opportunity where others saw it as a daunting, stressful thing that was happening.

“I said, ‘Wow, an opportunity to learn,’ because it was all new. I thought that if it was new to me, it was new to everybody, and that meant that we were all learning something new. I also realised that some people took it as an opportunity to learn, while some didn’t and took it as an opportunity to hide and do less. I took it as an opportunity to gain.

“I think I learned the most during Covid. You never know what somebody may need or when you might be needed most and, through Covid, I became a manager and managed the travel surveillance. So where others did not see opportunity because of Covid, I saw opportunity to learn. I was grateful to be asked to be involved in the community.

“Even though Covid was horrible, when I looked at it like that, there was a lot to be learned.”

Still studious in her ambition, Darko is currently enrolled in a Masters of Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine course. She also embraces continuous education on wound care, along with studying asthma medicine.

“During Covid, I did a lot of contact tracing courses and courses on infectious diseases and hygiene,” she said. “Whatever it I that I need to do, I’m always learning.

“My goals at the moment are to continue and finish my Masters programme. To continue to build my current community nursing team.

“I’ve had a very challenging 18 months, with resignations, hiring new people and getting people on board with my vision. Right now I’m seeing everything come together. I have a community health garden. I have a health commission initiative. There’s so many things I want to do and accomplish with this team.

“So a lot of the goals are around building my actual team and finishing my Masters programme.

“I’m the community health nursing coordinator in charge of the adult health nurses. It comprises of nine nurses, but for many months I only operated with two.

“When you asked me of the attributes that make me the person that would have me voted Nurse of the Year, it’s those teachable attributes, the soft skills, the willingness to learn. I’m actually doing what I say I’m going to so.

“Because you can have goals, dreams and say all that you want to say, but what is it if you don’t do it? It’s literally just words.”

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