‘Nurse extraordinaire!’ - Lawson-Byfield hailed as superb educator, leader
Marva Lawson-Byfield was born in Westmoreland but moved to St James in 1977 – a decision that would change the course of her life.
The pretrained teacher received instruction at the Cornwall School of Nursing and served at Cornwall Regional Hospital for many years until she became chief nurse.
“The year that I was selected, they had 1,500 applicants, and they chose 20, and I was one of them. It was the best decision I ever made, but my father really thought I should do teaching,” she said.
“Sometimes I get some very ill patients, sometimes they are not so ill, but they just need somebody to talk to. The soft skills are very important in healthcare, as well as the technical skills.”
Lawson-Byfield recounted how she had planned to sleep in late last Independence Day, on August 6, but her phone kept buzzing – and buzzing. When she answered the call from a private number, she was surprised to hear the voice of Regional Director Errol Greene.
He told her that she was being awarded for her contribution to the fields of health and community development.
“It was a shocker! I said, ‘Are you sure? Where did you get this information?’ And he said, ‘Go to the JIS website or look in The Gleaner. I sent and bought The Gleaner and saw my name, and I was excited. I always say, ‘God keeps the records, you must do well. You’ll never know who is gonna pick up and celebrate you,” she said.
Lawson-Byfield was inducted into the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony held at King’s House yesterday.
Lawson-Byfield spent the last five years of her career at the Ministry of Health in Kingston, and even though she has retired, she serves as regional nurse and clinical coordinator in western Jamaica.
Shirley Hibbert, a fellow nurse, has known Lawson-Byfield for many years and worked as her deputy in the ministry.
“She is a nurse extraordinaire! Talk about giving care – she’s an educator, a manager and a leader, all those and more. She really deserves the accolade that has been given to her,” Hibbert said.
The Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer was accorded to Rose Bennett-Cooper for service to legal reform in Jamaica for more than 20 years.
Coming out of law school, she found that many areas of the field were oversaturated.
“I had a very strong interest in the land – how you use it, how you live on it, how you use it wrongly and the ways in which we have that connected relationship with land,” she said.
Bennett-Cooper began to work with the local government authorities doing enforcement on zoning, building and planning.
“At that time, not too many people were considering issues of the environment. When I was in court prosecuting, I found that many of the attorneys involved, even some of the judges, were encountering, for example, the Town and Country Planning Act for the first time, so that was exciting for me,” she said.
Her most recent work was on the Rent Restriction Act, which was last revised in 1983.
“I am very pleased. I did not expect to be rewarded in this way. I try to do things that make me fulfilled, and when things like this happen, it’s like the icing on the cake,” said the chair of the Rent Assessment Board.