Heroes of Orbis: Jackie Newton

Jackie Newton joined Orbis as a staff nurse on the Flying Eye Hospital more than a decade ago. When she’s not busy saving people’s sight, she spends her time training and mentoring the next generation of nurses. Most recently she’s been part of the Flying Eye Hospital team that’s transitioned their hands-on training to online, due to the pandemic.

Jackie Newton on board the Flying Eye Hospital in Mongolia

Jackie Newton has been a dedicated staff nurse on the Flying Eye Hospital for more than a decade

Growing up, Jackie considered joining the Navy or becoming an air hostess, until her mom suggested she go into nursing. After six months of practicing as a nurse, Jackie realised she had found her true calling:

When I started, I realized I love serving people and helping people who are sick. I really enjoyed nursing, and after I graduated, I did a post-operating theater course and was scrubbing for all types of specialties. I then had the opportunity to work overseas.

Jackie Newton

Flying Eye Hospital Staff Nurse

And it was this appetite for adventure, that brought Jackie into Orbis’s orbit. While working in Saudi Arabia, Jackie learnt about the Flying Eye Hospital from one of her nursing colleagues.

Having been inspired by Orbis’s mission, Jackie submitted her application to join the Flying Eye Hospital team – and the rest is history!

Jackie Newton pictured on board the Flying Eye Hospital in Mongolia

Jackie Newton on the steps of the Flying Eye Hospital during a mission to Mongolia

Jackie’s first project with the Flying Eye Hospital took her to Tanzania back in 2008, she tells us she can still recall those first-day nerves and excitement today—but when she saw the team in action, she knew this was where she was meant to be.

I have always enjoyed traveling. I now get to be the air hostess I wanted to be growing up. It is as if the job was made for me. I cannot imagine going back to a job where every day is the same; I love the different challenges the different working environments bring. It is hard work. At the end of the day, you know you have been working hard. I find it rewarding and satisfying.

Jackie Newton

Flying Eye Hospital Staff Nurse

Since then, Jackie has been on multiple missions with the Flying Eye Hospital, taking her all around the world, as well as training local teams at our network of partner hospitals.

Inspiring and mentoring the next generation of nurses

Jackie’s extensive nursing experience and natural ability to pass on her knowledge and skills, inspires her fellow nurses to take their own practice to new heights.

And it was on one of those trips in Peru that Jackie met Flor Romero — their story is a wonderful example of the Orbis model in practice. Through Jackie’s guidance, Flor has gone from a trainee to a trainer who is now leading her own training programs for nurses in Bolivia! As Jackie herself says: It was amazing to see. Flor is a real Orbis nurse-training success story.”

It’s not just Flor who Jackie has inspired. Thanks to her expert knowledge and mentorship, nurses Celestin and Wilson in Cameroon have been able to develop their knowledge and skills meaning they can treat more patients safely.

Slideshow below: Jackie teaching and training nurses on board the Flying Eye Hospital and in our partner hospitals before COVID-19 pandemic

Transforming teaching and learning in the pandemic

After the pandemic hit it quickly became clear that in-person training would not be happening again until it was safe to do so. Jackie found herself having to shift her thinking and pivot her approach to adapt to the world of virtual training.

Thankfully, her years of experience as a trainer meant she was more prepared than she realised—and despite her concerns about being in the spotlight, the virtual Flying Eye Hospital programs for Zambia and Cameroon were a great success.

When the participants, Flying Eye Hospital nurses and I saw each other on the live sessions, we felt a sense of accomplishment and togetherness. We are getting through this challenging time together. Camaraderie. This is what it is all about now.

Jackie Newton

Flying Eye Hospital Staff Nurse

Joining the fight against COVID-19

If Jackie’s contributions to team Orbis weren’t enough, she has also been volunteering her time to fight COVID-19 in her local community over the past year: “COVID-19 cases were increasing in South Africa, and Cape Town specifically, and I wanted to help”.

Jackie went on to volunteer her time at a local hospital, sharing her knowledge of infection control and screening patients to check for COVID-19 infections to help stop the spread of the virus.

I saw the Orbis team working together and how we screened the patients in such a caring way, and I just knew it was the place I was meant to be. I love the variety of the work, teaching nurses, and still being able to scrub for cases and continue with my nursing career while doing something rewarding and satisfying and helping patients all at the same time. Every day is quite different from the other – no single day is the same – which is what I love about it. 

Jackie Newton

Flying Eye Hospital Staff Nurse

We want to say a big thank you to Jackie for being such a hard-working and dedicated member of the Orbis family over the past 13 years — thanks to your expertise and leadership, nurses all over the world are able to save sight in their communities.


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