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Former NAJ President, Carmen Johnson Confers with Order of Distinction

Carmen Johnson, Former NAJ President

Nurse Carmen Lyn Johnson, former president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica was conferred with the Order of Distinction (OD) on National Heroes Day on October 17 after 33 years of unwavering service to the nursing profession.

She tells JIS News that the award is not about her but the people who have supported and believed in her throughout her career.

“I recognise it as a higher level of appreciation for the service that we continue to give and I say this because the award is not just about me. It is about those whom I work with; it’s about those who saw the potential in me and sometimes even when I resist, they said no,” she said.

Johnson’s journey from her small rural community of Aenon Town in Clarendon to being a distinguished leader in the profession, serving as President of the Nursing Association of Jamaica (NAJ), is nothing short of inspirational. Her service spans bedside nursing and midwifery to healthcare management and administration.

While her initial ambition was to study sociology, Johnson says she had an innate calling to help others.

“In my community, I used to look for the elderly people and I would assist them with cleaning their homes, helping to feed them, do chores for them. My parents would also give me food to take to them. I remember this Rastafarian said [to me] ‘you know, you’re going to be a nurse; you take care of them like you’re a nurse’,” she recalled.

With the urging of her sisters, she began her nursing journey at the Kingston School of Nursing in 1987, after completing studies at Knox College and Knox Community College.

She went on to hone her skills as a registered general nurse at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital before returning to the Kingston School of Nursing in 1993 to study midwifery, further expanding her skill set. Throughout her career, Nurse Johnson continued to evolve.

Her commitment to the profession, coupled with a thirst for knowledge, led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health administration at the University of Technology in 2001, graduating in 2003. This qualification paved the way for her to assume a leadership role as a departmental nurse manager.

Her relentless pursuit of knowledge did not stop there, as she went on to earn a master’s degree in human resource development at the University of the West Indies.

In 2009, Nurse Johnson faced yet another pivotal moment in her career when she was asked to serve as a hospital administrator at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, a role she initially resisted but ultimately accepted, demonstrating her dedication to healthcare administration and her ability to adapt to new challenges.

She functioned in that capacity for almost two years before being elevated to director of nursing services at the hospital and continues to serve in that position.

Despite initial reluctance, she took on the role of NAJ president from 2017 to 2020, again proving her commitment to the profession and fighting for the welfare of her colleagues.

Overwhelming sense of humility

Johnson tells JIS News that her first love is bedside nursing and the best part of her job is helping patients get to good health.

“We have patients who decide that they want to give up and that it doesn’t make sense that they continue in life. I would sit down and have positive discussions with them. I would encourage them, and what I tend to do is to use my spiritual beliefs and so I pray with them,” Nurse Johnson explained.

One of her most memorable acts of service was her trip to Montserrat during the island’s Soufriere Hills volcanic eruption in 2003.

When she takes off her hat as a nurse, Johnson volunteers at the St Ann Chapter of the Violence Prevention Alliance and is a member of the Optimist Club.

The veteran nurse is expressing gratitude for the national honour. She says that her initial disbelief on hearing the news turned into an overwhelming sense of humility.

Johnson says she has never sought recognition for her work and believes that her involvement with the NAJ contributed to her being nominated for the prestigious honour.

“I would also want to believe that having served the Nurses Association since I was a young nurse in 1990 and having grown in the NAJ, becoming a chairperson of a number of committees – I was third vice president in the early 2000s then having become the president where my advocacy was taken to another level – that all of this contributed to my recognition,” she told JIS News.

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