Alexander, a Tobago-born nurse living in Georgia, US, at
the bedside of her niece Rosella Charles.
Charles, now 13, was involved in a car accident. In this
June 2007 photo, Charles, wearing her graduation gown, participated
in her graduation ceremony through a Webcam set up in her
room at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.
A car accident involving Tobagonian Taleka Alexanders
then 12-year-old niece allowed her to be a nurse and an
aunt at the same time.
Alexander, a registered nurse trained at the Port-of-Spain
General Hospital, spent every day of two months at the bedside
of her niece Rosella Charles, who spent four months in intensive
The girls injuries were extensive: her spleen was
removed. Her left leg was broken. She lost all the skin
from that leg from hip to ankle.
Saving the leg was touch and go for weeks.
God they saved the leg, said Alexander, a travel nurse
who lives in Georgia in the United States.
helped the family to understand, for me to interpret things.
When Charles was in pain, she turned to her aunt. Alexander
has no children.
still in rehab, but she is up and walks using a walker.
She cannot put her full weight on the leg, she said.
Taleka, travel nurse
In a telephone interview from New York yesterday, Alexander,
elder sister of Guardian photographer Andre Alexander, spoke
of Health Care Traveler magazine awarding her as travel
nurse for 2007.
Alexander, 55, who grew up on Hamilton Street, Scarborough,
Tobago, said the nomination surprised her.
Employed by Supplemental Health Care, a travel nurse agency,
she explained the criteria for nomination.
The USs 80-plus travel nurse agencies nominate nurses.
The magazine investigates the nominees professional
performance, personality and commitment to their job.
Alexanders award was based on her dedication to nursing.
She got a crystal award, a gold certificate and complimentary
copies of Health Care Traveler magazine.
Taking her job seriously
Alexander joked on the phone that shed asked about
getting a new car to replace the 1996 dark green Toyota
Camry on which she has clocked 221,000 kilometres making
long distance trips.
The faithful car makes the six-hour drive from Rochester
to Virginia or the ten-hour drive from Georgia to Virginia.
Shes hoping her car can clock 300,000 kilometres before
she replaces it.
Alexander works at whichever hospital she is assigned by
Supplemental Health Care.
Agencies like Supplemental arrange contracts with hospitals
to provide travel nurses on demand.
Driving to nursing assignments is the norm for Alexander.
One such job involved a 17-hour drive from Georgia, where
she lives, to Rochester, New York.
pack my car, leave early in the morning and drive.
Assignments usually last 13 weeks.
The job usually comes with housing, travel and meal allowances
and insurance coverage.
Dedicated to relieving suffering
Alexander, who graduated as a nurse in 197632 years
agodoes the duties of an operating room nurse.
can handle almost anything. I can do general surgery, orthopedic
surgery, ear, nose and throat surgery, urology, geriatric,
The only thing I dont really do on a regular basis
is brain surgery and cardiac. Everything else I do.
Alexander finds joy in all disciplines, but she especially
likes orthopedic and neurosurgical spine cases.
Shes also had extensive training in joint replacement
at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston.
A childs dream
Alexanders childhood dream was really to be a doctor.
But she couldnt bear being away from her mother Margaret,
a single mother, and the six siblings she was close to.
For a while, she did accounting and taught. Being trained
as a nurse in Trinidad was the next best option.
For Alexander, nursing is about relieving suffering.
Shed help another human being any way she can.
Nursing is more than a job; its a way of life.
She recalled being in downtown Port-of-Spain many years
ago when Woolworths was in the space that Excellent
Stores now occupies, and saw a man collapse. She performed
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him there and then.
Hed suffered a heart attack.
Unfortunately, he didnt make it.
Nursing and spirituality
Alexander is a Seventh-Day Adventist, but it never gets
in the way of caring for people.
Shes hardly called out on a Saturday because operating
rooms open weekdays only.
But if she is, shed respond.
only reason theyd call me on a Saturday is if somebody
needs attention and its an emergency.
cant let people die and sit down in church. Then your
faith is not in action, Alexander said.
As to life after retirement, Alexander wants to do mission.
are some missions where you can go to the country and help
Some go abroad.
Alexander wants to stay home.
like to do what is closer to me first. I always thought
my calling was to do something in mission work.