Aim higher – Ph.D nun tells other nurses

Returning with a Doctorate in Nursing from Norway, Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha
Joseph talks to Shalomi Daniel of her interest in the medical field

The humility and simplicity of the Master she faithfully serves is reflected in Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha Joseph as her unassuming and friendly nature remains untouched in spite of her numerous achievements. Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha Joseph is one of the very few Sri Lankans to have completed a Doctorate in Nursing.

The youngest in a family of eight, Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha Joseph joined the order of the Sisters of the Holy Cross at the tender age of 17.

“My father was concerned about me as I am the youngest,” she reminisces with a smile, adding that she chose the name Josepha Joseph as it included her father’s name and the name of a nun who had been her inspiration.

Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha Joseph: From
community based activities to a nurse
with a Doctorate

Rev. Dr. Sr. Josepha Joseph decided to join the Sisters of the Holy Cross for various reasons. One powerful motive was her interest in the medical field and the order of those nuns focusing mainly on medical services. These nuns were also involved in various community based services such as developing the educational and nutritional aspects of estate children and helping orphanages and homes for the aged. Convinced that the rural areas require much medical attention, she felt it was her calling to join this order.

She was also inspired by the stories she had heard about foreign nuns who had served in Sri Lanka.

Her interest in the medical field prompted her to follow a Diploma in Nursing in Kerala, gaining recognition over there by winning the State Award for the Best Nursing Student in the state.

In determining the winner of this award, various aspects such as attitude and relationship with patients were taken into consideration in addition to academic excellence, she explains.

“I did not expect to win the award at all,” she says, but winning it fuelled her interest in the field of nursing and propelled her to greater heights. The award paved the way for her to acquire scholarships to fund her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 1994 and her Master’s in Nursing in 2002.

Rev. Dr. Sr. Joseph did not stop at that, but went on to earn a Ph.D in Nursing at the University of Tromso. The University of Tromso which was engaged in helping the development of the medical section of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, was interested in developing nursing as it was a community based service.

That’s how the University of Tromso-Eastern University Collaboration funded her Doctorate in Norway. The subject she chose for her dissertation was diabetes and this was a 14-year follow up study.
“I chose this as a large percentage of Sri Lankans suffer from this disease,” she says, adding that the inadequate follow-up studies were yet another reason for her choosing this topic. Though her research was based on the Norwegian population, she hopes to do a similar research in Sri Lanka too.
She was, however, not destined to return to Sri Lanka quietly as she caught the attention of the media and people of the Land of the Midnight Sun, for they were intrigued by this nun who had successfully completed a Ph.D in Nursing.

Now back in Sri Lanka and holding the post of Head of the Department for Supplementary Health Sciences of the Faculty of Healthcare Sciences, Eastern University, she is working hard to encourage nurses to aim higher in terms of education.

“The role of a nurse is very important as we deal closely with patients,” she stresses. She explains that in other countries nurses at least have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

“However, in Sri Lanka most of the nurses only have a Diploma,” she says, adding that this limits them to the role of medical attendants when they seek employment overseas. She is currently motivating staff nurses who hold Diplomas to take a step further and work towards a Bachelor’s Degree and, of course, advocates a Ph.D too.

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