Up Close … with Marie-Ange Denis, retired nurse but still on the go-‘I have a passion for getting things done’


Marie-Ange Denis

In fact she claims that her interest in nursing was stirred as a patient at the tender age of 10 on the Paediatric Unit, where the “deep caring and attention” from the “ladies in white” struck a chord and somehow convinced her what she should do later in adulthood.

Today, Marie-Ange Denis (born Barbé) has been a nurse for 44 years, is retired, but responded to a call from her ministry to assist on a two-year contract.
Her profession has taken her to the four corners  of the world -- making her one of the most widely travelled women in Seychelles.

She is also chairperson of the board of cleaners cooperative, which has 372 employees, tidying up government ministries and departments and parastatal organisations.  They also operate at the View Entertainment radio station.

She was born and grew up at Roche Bois, where she resides to this day. Times have changed and she finds a lot of humour in the fact that though her home is deemed part of the Mont Buxton district, the kitchen falls into the Beau Vallon electoral area.
She enjoys the serenity and quiet of the high altitude and finds time to admire the mountain and sea views, whenever her five grandchildren are not around. 
Marie-Ange attended St Thérèse School, presently known as La Rosière School, for her primary education, before going on to the Mont Fleuri Modern School where she completed Form Three, then left to follow the first year of a pre-nursing course in 1965.

However her nursing career really started at the age of 18 in 1966, when she enrolled on a four-year course.

Marie-Ange recalls that in those days, trainee nurses earned a monthly salary of R90, out of which was deducted a board and lodging fee of R50.

Another requirement was that all trainee nurses had to be single. That meant that when she met and fell in love with young mechanic Yvon Denis, who wanted to marry her in 1968, her studies had to be interrupted.

She left the service for a while, during which her three children were born.  Her daughter, Shirley, a school teacher, is presently married to Benjamin Choppy, principal secretary in the Department of Information Communications Technology.  One of her sons, Jude, is settled in the UK, while the third, Nigel, works for St Anne Resort in customer service.

Marie-Ange returned to the service in 1974 and obtained her midwifery certificate in 1975.

“My first posting as a qualified midwife was to take charge of the maternity wing. I realised that this was my very first major professional test. I was wary about the responsibility that this posting brought, but I enjoyed the challenge of putting my training into practice and assisting others meet their individual challenges with positive outcomes.”

At that point, I asked Mrs Denis how many mothers she has helped deliver during her career. She paused before responding: “possibly several hundred, as we were expected to deliver a minimum of 50 just during training”.

It was in 1976 that I first made her acquaintance, when she was posted to Praslin, where I was then Environment Officer.  That was the year of Seychelles Independence which I remember very well. Mrs Denis, as I then knew her, was decorating the Grand Anse clinic, opposite the playing field with a lot of balloons and streamers, most of it purchased from her own salary.
As she put it to me during the interview, “I have a passion for getting things done”.

Her posting to Grand Anse Praslin also involved a lot of travelling -- mostly on schooners to Mahé and back as well as to La Digue. Often that was during the south-east monsoon, when the ocean can be cruel. She often had to accompany patients to Mahé aboard the hospital schooner La Paulette.

She was later transferred to Silhouette, where life could be tough, both for travelling and for work.
Being in charge of community hospitals on Praslin and Silhouette created its own unique difficulties, where the nurse/midwife often operated in isolation without direct intervention from medical officers or other senior nursing personnel.

“Decisions had to be taken promptly, accurately and confidently to bring about effective life-saving solutions. It was often a matter of life or death, hinging on the nurse’s single decision,” Marie-Ange recalls.

Her career progression through the years included promotion to Nurse in Charge; Director of Nursing  up to Director of Administration – Hospital Services, the last post she held upon retirement last year.

It is the post she is still holding, except that it is currently called Manager of Auxilliary Services.
Marie-Ange notes that although the professional challenges in health care during the past four decades has changed in keeping with technological advancement, the role of health workers has remained focused on meeting fundamental human needs.

She has seen the introduction of key diagnostic tools, such as X-Ray and Magnetic Imaging Resonance (MIR) ultra sound and CT scan.
“Over the years, I have learned never to under-estimate the value of a smile, a comforting word and showing that I really care and I’ve found out that such personal attention does lift morale,” she says.

In preparation to meet the demands of her changing status, Marie-Ange has continued to develop herself professionally over the years. She attended and took part in different programmes and training sessions held locally and  abroad.

She visited the UK as Seychelles’ representative of the World Midwives Congress. Her membership of the International Confederation of Nurses (ICN) meant she was part of big medical gatherings in Spain.

As a representative of care of the elderly, she also travelled to Malta.
As health care administrator, she has been on working missions in Botswana, Israel and China.

Being in charge of adolescent health brought her to Uganda and her involvement with ‘Women in Development’ led her to Zambia.

And as an official of the Specialised Treatment Unit, she has been to nearly all countries of the region, notably Mauritius, Reunion, South Africa, India and Singapore.
Always anxious to consistently develop her level of professionalism, she independently decided to enroll in distant learning  programmes in her spare time. These included English, management and administration.

Her professionalism has led to membership of several professional organisations  directly or indirectly linked to nursing.
Today, Marie -Ange Denis enjoys reading and the “sounds of silence” at her native Roche Bois. Some of her happiest moments are with her five grand-children -- Jean-Yves, Vanessa, Jade, Julien and Jasmine.


by John Lablache