After years of providing top-notch care to patients as a nurse, Mihle Mngeni is making a bold move and chasing her dream of becoming a doctor. All of this while still making her mark in her nursing profession.
As Mngeni embarks on this transformative journey of trading her scrubs for a white coat, she stands as a shining example of the unwavering dedication and passion that dreams delayed are not dreams denied.
Born in the Eastern Cape in a small village called Ngqeleni in a large family of eight children, all female, Mngeni defines her background as a rollercoaster.
She says they were raised by her grandmother, who was a very strict single parent and she played a significant role in shaping her upbringing and providing her with love, guidance, and support.
Learning from strong women
“Since I was born, my family has been through many rough patches. Some of these experiences consist of not having enough money to sustain basic needs. Living under my grandmother’s care, I experienced a unique and enriching childhood that was deeply influenced by wisdom, values, and experiences,” Mngeni says.
“I enrolled in nursing from 2018 to 2021 at the University of Fort Hare in East London, being funded by NSFAS. Thankfully, I graduated in record time in 2022, and then I went to work in a Pietermaritzburg forensic psychiatric hospital called Fort Napier Hospital in 2022.
“I always wanted to do medicine from a very young age, but unfortunately, even with meeting the minimum requirements, the competition was high and I could not get in, so I decided to let me do something close to it and then apply after, as that is another route to getting into medicine, so I did nursing. Six years later, here I am. Indeed, dreams delayed are not dreams denied.”
Driven by personal experience
Currently staying in Durban for academic purposes, Mngeni is doing her first year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. The nurse hoping to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor at 34, says the reasons behind her career choice to transition from nurse to doctor are driven by her personal experiences, motivations, and interests.
“My personal experiences, such as witnessing the impact of the illness of a loved one, inspired me to pursue a medical career. As an aspiring doctor, I am also driven by a genuine desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Medicine also offers the opportunity to study the intricacies of the human body, understand how it functions, and apply that knowledge to diagnose and treat illnesses. The fascination with biology, anatomy, physiology, and the complexities of the human body is a driving force behind choosing a medical career.”
As an unfunded medical student and a qualified professional nurse, Mngeni says her day-to-day life is often demanding, fast-paced, and filled with a variety of responsibilities.
“During holidays, or sometimes my timetable is not hectic, I work at the oncology ward at Parklands Netcare on the night shift for an agency, as I don’t have a bursary and need to make ends meet. This involves discussing patient cases and treatment plans and collaborating with other medical professionals to ensure comprehensive and coordinated care.”
Pushing through tough times
Financial constraints are one of the challenges she has faced and most bursaries reject her because of her qualification status as they do not fund postgraduates.
“I really do not know what the future holds for me financially, so I need to work so I can save money for registration for the following year and tuition for the current year and coming years. Currently, I continue to apply for any bursary that is available, and I believe that one day I will get a bursary to fund me. For now, I just need to keep applying, praying, and studying too.”
Despite challenges, Mngeni highlights that her nursing skills are really coming in handy at medical school, as she is familiar with everything taught. “At the moment I am not doing any clinical rotations, but I know when that time comes I won’t struggle much as I have the exposure. Do not get me wrong; I am not saying it will be easy, but it will be better.”
Mngeni is proud of not giving up on her dreams of becoming a doctor, pushing through the odds, and finally getting admitted into medical school after six years.
“My goals and aspirations as a medical student are to be a good doctor who is good at what she is doing and to restore lives. Maybe later I can branch into sports medicine, cardiothoracic surgery, or neurosurgery; I am still not sure. I will cross that bridge when I get there. I do not want to overwhelm myself.”
Beauty and brains
“I am also a pageant queen, as being beautiful while helping others is my love too. In 2021, I was crowned the first princess of the Miss Nyandeni local municipality. I am also a gift that keeps on giving, having to do two projects called ‘It’s in the Bag: Essential Items for a Teen Bag’ in 2021, donating cosmetics to disadvantaged grade 9 learners of Ngqeleni village and female mental health care users at Cicilia Makhiwane hospital.
“I pray that one day my project becomes big and continue to support others.”
Mngeni encourages anyone who wants to walk the same path as her to remember that dreams delayed are not dreams denied.
“If it’s in your head and mind, it has to come to life. God does not just give us ideas for them to stay dominant inside our bodies and thoughts. One day, they will manifest into reality.”
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