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A Nurse at Heart

A Nurse at Heart

Brunilda Illidge is a seasoned health care worker who takes her role as a nurse very seriously.


St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) highlighted Illidge as one of its special nurses in celebration of International Nurses Day, which was observed around the world on Monday, May 12.


International Nurses Day is actually the birthday of Florence Nightingale – described as one of the pioneers of the nursing profession. However, on this significant day, SMMC says it does not celebrate Nightingale’s birthday, but rather celebrates “the legacy that she has left behind in each nurse.” And even more so celebrates and shows appreciation to its very own Florence Nightingales. And this year, the spotlight was shone on Illidge.


Illidge first entered the nursing profession in Aruba, in September 1972. When she was a baby she had lost one of her eyes. She turned this negative into something positive and was personally motivated to always want to help others. Nursing was a career that she gravitated towards because it was something that would give her the opportunity to fulfil her wish to help persons who were ill and it paid off. “From day one it became my passion,” she says.


On March 31, 1976 Illidge earned her Registered Nursing (RN) diploma and continued to work in Aruba until 1986.


Illidge first started working at the medical institution in St. Maarten back in 1987, when she assumed a position at the former St. Rose Hospital, which at the time was located in the heart of St. Maarten’s shopping center - Front Street in Philipsburg.


Although she already had accumulated some 15 years valuable experience in her blossoming career as a nurse, her new job was no walk in the park. She said one of the main reasons it was not very easy was because the head nurse at the medical institution at the time carried the same last name as her. She was also an Illidge so “I had to be on point,” Brunilda Illidge said.


This however, did not deter her from doing her job and doing it well and to the best of her abilities.


Brunilda Illidge was amongst the first group of nurses who started dialysing patients in St. Maarten.


She had received her first book on dialysis in Aruba from her former student Antonio Panthophlet, who is now her colleague in the Education Department as Manager Patient Care at the Medical Center.


When St. Rose Hospital relocated from its Front Street location and opened as St. Maarten Medical Center at its current location in Cay Hill, Brunilda Illidge started writing what had been referred to as ‘the bible’ for nurses. She did so with the help of a number of persons such as gynaecologist obstetrician Dr. Michel Petit and gynaecologist obstetrician Dr. Ray Tjon.


The Bible for nursing as it was called is a list of the protocols used to guide the various procedures in the wards at SMMC. Although these protocols were not warmly welcomed at first, Brunilda Illidge was happy to write them because she knew in her heart that it would help the nurses at the medical institution to perform their tasks the correct way.


In 1994, Brunilda Illidge followed a Practical Nursing Instructors Course to enable her to professionally groom and train nurses in the field.


In 2008 she started a Bachelors Degree Teaching programme which she completed two years later in 2010.


Brunilda Illidge is an educator on many levels. She is often invited to schools around the island as well as by several organisations to deliver talks about a range of health topics such as sexuality.


Her strength as an educator has not taken away from her commitment, love and passion of being a nurse.


What she loves most about her job is her ability to make others feel special, particularly in their time of need as a patient. “You (the patient) are the star of the show - not me,” she says in expressing her love for her tasks.


Her nursing career extends beyond the walls of St. Maarten Medical Center. She is sometimes called to help support families who has a relative who may be dying, to help administer medication or injections or to just talk with a family or to persons who may be ill. When she is unable to be there, she finds support for them during the day.


For Brunilda Illidge, it is always a pleasure to know that people remember her for her nursing care. “This is the most important thing in nursing – [to know – Ed.] that you made a difference in people’s lives. The biggest impact a nurse can make on a patient is to cure them with the heart. People don’t remember you for the big house you live in or the car you drove this year, they remember you for what you’ve done to make a difference in their life,” she said.


She advised nurses and aspiring nurses to join the profession to be given an opportunity to help others.  “Do not come into nursing to make friends, come to care for the individual patient - not to do what you think is your best, but to do what that patient need at that moment during their condition. This is nursing. Your satisfaction should be that when you leave the institution, you can say to yourself - job well done today.”


She said “nurses can change things by being critical, open and honest. If you see something that can be done differently be assertive and bring your point forward to make the changes not for you, but for patients and the community.”


It is important to note that her role in the profession has been recognised in the past.



Nurse Brunilda Illidge receiving her royal decoration from Governor Eugene Holiday during the first King’s Day celebration in St. Maarten in April.


For the first ever King’s Day celebration in St. Maarten on Saturday, April 26, 2014, Brunilda Illidge received a royal decoration for her long time service as a nurse and for her  success in training more than 200 nurses in the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.


As a Practical Instructor and Nursing Educator at St. Maarten Medical Center, Brunilda Illidge passed on her philosophy in nursing to many. Her mantra to her students is that they should always take pride in their profession. “You have to do it right, or don’t do it at all,” she often says. 


Edited by: Judy Fitzpatrick

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