The Accidental Nurse of Beddawi
Education for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Joumana is a 27-year-old Palestinian nurse at the kidney care unit at Safad Hospital in Beddawi Camp, Tripoli, in northern Lebanon. The renal unit is not an easy place to work. Joumana sees many people who are in pain. Some children are regulars, who visit the hospital often for blood transfusions.
But Joumana is a passionate advocate for her patients.
There is so much that you need to learn before becoming a nurse, but I think that empathy and love, are the prerequisites."
"As a nurse, the love I give to patients is very important because patients are weak, they are worried and often, scared. Also, hospitals can be overwhelming and people need someone to tell them that everything will be alright — someone to stand by them.”
When Joumana finished her basic education, she knew that it would be best if she enrolled in a public vocational school. Lebanese laws restrict Palestinian refugees from many fields of employment and preclude these careers unless their employment is inside the camps.
Nursing School in Lebanon: A Happy Accident
Joumana very nearly didn’t become a nurse at all. It was a fortuitous mix-up that set her down the path to her eventual career.
In 2007, conflict between the Lebanese army and armed groups broke out inside Nahr El Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp, not far from Joumana's home. A young teenager herself, she volunteered to help provide psychological support for children in the camp. The experience made her realize how much she loved helping people. Still, nursing was not yet at the forefront of her mind.
At first, I wanted to study hospitality. When I went with my family to register at the college, my dad mistakenly enrolled me in the nursing school instead. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t change it later... I had the feeling that if I tried nursing school, I might love it.”
Indeed, Joumana discovered a passion for her nursing studies. “I love helping others. The satisfaction I feel when I can get a sick child to smile has made me realize that I was born for this job. I am a nurse by nature!”
After earning high grades and graduating with her Baccalaureat Technique, a secondary education diploma, Joumana began applying to hospital jobs but found none were available without more training.
She wanted to continue on to a Technicien Supérieur (higher education) program at a private vocational institute. Unfortunately, her finances did not allow her to pursue her studies further.
That might have ended her nursing career before it began. Fortunately, a new path opened. “Like magic, just as I was about to give up on or postpone my education, a friend tells me that an NGO called Anera is offering scholarships at Saidon Technical College.”
She leapt at the opportunity and Anera offered Joumana a scholarship, with generous support from Reach Out To Asia, a Qatar-based nonprofit member of the Qatar Foundation. "You can imagine my joy when I learned that I’d been accepted," she says. "I could hardly believe it.... I got to finish my TS degree thanks to Anera. They saved my dream.”
Today, Joumana is a full-time senior nurse at Safad Hospital. "It is a good profession, and it is a great way to help people in need," she says. With her stable income, she is able to help support her family. All set in motion because of her father’s slip of the tongue during college registration!
Joumana is very proud of what she has accomplished. “My work has meaning, I am needed. I stand by people in their weakest moments and serve and help them. My biggest life achievement so far is being admired and respected by our patients.”
Joumana completed her nursing program in 2014. This fall, we are supporting a new cohort of nursing students who just began their studies last month with the generous support of the Aller Scholarship Program.