Give me hope, Nurse Rhonda

Rhonda Peters says once you have compassion and humanity, you will make an excellent nurse. - Mark Lyndersay
Rhonda Peters says once you have compassion and humanity, you will make an excellent nurse. - Mark Lyndersay


My name is Rhonda Peters and I am an oncology nurse.

I reside in Maraval. Born and bred and stayed. All 46 years.

I live in Boissiere, technically an East Indian community. I guess that influenced my love of curry. Every Hindu this or Muslim that, you were in it, even if you were Christian.

I grew up like the last child: I was the first grandchild. ‘Cause my dad had me when he was a little young.

I grew up calling my grandmother on my father’s side Mom. That’s why I (feel) like the last child in my dad’s family.

My dad is the only one who passed away, unfortunately.

And he had cancer. So God knows what he’s doing, because he put me in the oncology field just before my father died. He prepared me before my dad went.

I couldn’t
do anything hands-on per se because of family relation, but I was quite instrumental in directing his case.

He had concurrent chemo/radiation and, after finishing all that, he died of a heart attack.

I have two kids, my son Anthony, 24, and my daughter Azaria, 13.

I’m not in a relationship but I am exploring. I’m not settled yet.

I attended St Ursula’s Girls’ Anglican Primary and St Francois Girls’ College. They used to call us the Black Convent.

But I got the “Corn-vent” accent from a grandmother who instilled proper English. When you said, “Something chook me,” she would say, “What is chook? Spell it!”

She always wanted to be a teacher.

It was hard for her that my dad went before she did, but she’s still going strong.

When I was in form two, I was the youngest member of the student council. And I was the youngest vice-president.

I was a little tomboy. Still am. Kinda.

My grandmother Pearl always told me: teaching or nursing, but nursing wasn’t my first choice.

As a child, I used to help out in my parents’ business. Put T-shirts on screen boards. Take them off, put them on the drier to dry. I grew up in the world of art, the world of screen-printing, the world of Carnival. We did a lot of prints. Back then, mas wasn’t so automated.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, I was actually doing oncology.

He came back from a trip to China with a nosebleed. We took him to Dr Juman.

I would agree I did him a service. The student became the teacher. The daughter became the parent.

Rhonda Peters believes being in oncology gives her better appreciation of life. - Mark Lyndersay

Most nurses will tell you they had a love for nursing. That wasn’t it for me. As a tomboy, I wanted to be an architect. Or the first (sic) female airline pilot.

But nursing was financially feasible. As much as my parents had business, I always thought there might be a Great Depression. And you
always need a nurse.

I am a believer, a Pentecostal. I can square a loving God with the level of suffering I see every day. Because I also believe that everything happens how it has to, if you trust what God is doing. After a test there is a testimony.

Nobody wants to have cancer. Nobody wants to have anything. Everybody wish they could be healthy.

Unfortunately, that’s not life. Life throws things at us. Win, lose or draw, how you go into it – with a positive mindset – will determine, even in the worst of times, how you get over it.

I don’t want to say God put me here as a light but as a ray of hope.

Not so much of a hope of a cure. But a hope of a smooth transition through the whole process.

People think that cancer is a death sentence, but it’s not necessarily.

It may shorten your lifespan. If it’s your time, it’s your time.

I used to tell my patients in St James for their morning speech: you may have cancer; I don’t. But, God forbid, I could walk outside and get knocked down! It’s not your time yet. It was my time then.

Being in oncology gave me a better appreciation of life.

I’m BNEP2: Basic Nursing Education Programme, batch two. I was working Ministry of Labour. They had now brought back nursing being taught by the government. Only COSTAATT had been teaching nursing for many years.

I applied for the free training, stipend given, education free, potential for good economic stability and flow.

God opened many avenues. After nursing, the ability to do the oncology programme for free came up in 2007, the first oncology batch at UWI. Yet another free opening!

I really can’t dispute it, I grew up in church and I put God in that aspect of my life.

I meet people at their lowest, but when they meet me, they don’t feel that low.

You already have a disease that is hard to deal with psychologically. I am not supposed to make this tremendous burden more difficult to bear.

My aim is to do my job as effectively and efficiently as possible. To make your process, your whole transition, as smooth as possible.

A nurse has to have empathy, not to take on the person’s problems as your own, but to understand them and not make them seem as big.

It’s a balancing act. The patient is at a point nobody wants to be and I don’t think they want a hoggish nurse coming and snapping “Duh-duh-duh! Dah-dah-dah!”

Anyone I have mentored, I give them my example of my first day on the ward.

The first thing they give you to do is bed-bathing. How am I going to touch someone, clean someone I don’t know? It was a male, so I had to clean his penis, scrotum, buttocks, clean a man I had never touched before.

I said to myself, treat him how you would want your son to be treated. I gave him the longest, best bed-bath ever.

I always go back to that mindset: treat the person on the bed like it’s your child.

If you have compassion and humanity, you will make an excellent nurse.

For me, there is no bad part of my job.

The best part is interacting with my patients at the high or at the low point. Knowing I gave you the best of me and you appreciate it, even if you are actually going.

I am overworked, yes, but I love what I do.

I have seen people pass. I have had to excuse myself when families are crying because I knew I would cry myself. I go shed, two tears and come back.

Even if I know you are going, I do my best for you. You tried your best, so I’ll give you my best.

When people hear “cancer,” they often think “death sentence.”

They think you will have to have chemo, hair falling off – you wouldn’t have to worry about that BC Pires. Some people are very conscious of their hair loss.

It affects everyone differently. Some of them have had their own experiences through their mum or dad before had cancer.

Again, my role is to guide. I hold you while you cry. You have to allow those emotions to process.

They say Trini nurses are the best because we learn how to improvise. ’Cause we don’t have the idyllic nursing working environment.

A Trini is a happy person. Trinidadians are a happy people, even if we have struggles, even if we don’t realise it.

We are truly a cosmopolitan nation. Even though we have racial divide we don’t have it to the point where we war.

Trinidad is a happy place and it is home. I love my Trinbago.

When you go out abroad, there are benefits for sure. But the atmosphere here is so much more relaxed.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at


"Give me hope, Nurse Rhonda"

More in this section