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September Spotlight on Hlengiwe Sibanda
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Spotlight on Hlengiwe Sibanda

The NMNPC September Member in the Spotlight is a clinician and leader in her local community and international health. Hlengiwe L. Sibanda graduated in 1986 with a BSN from Hunter College at the City University of New York (CUNY) and worked for 23 years in oncology/bone marrow transplant before transitioning to the role of FNP in 2009. That year, she received her MSN from the University of San Diego, California and began her career as an FNP. Her staunch belief that everybody deserves decent health care regardless of their social status or race led her to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, reflecting her passion for providing care to those who are disenfranchised and under-served.

After 6 years in corrections health, Hlengiwe made her way to rural health. It was one of her biggest dreams to serve Native Americans, the indigenous people of the United States. Her dream came true in 2015 when the Indian Health Service hired her to work at the Crownpoint Healthcare Facility in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

Hlengiwe faithfully served the Navajo people and enjoyed every minute of her challenging times with them. One of her greatest joys was watching the elderly who didn't speak a word of English, but who smiled when they saw her because they enjoyed hearing her do her best to speak broken Navajo in her Zimbabwean accent. Some had indeed honored her by nicknaming her “the Navajo girl.” She also loved the little children that she saw at the clinic and she encouraged them to keep their grades up and follow their dreams. She happens to have been born in a similar dry rural remote area but her eagerness to dream landed her in the United States when she was a young 22-year-old refugee student.

When she came to the Crownpoint Healthcare Facility, Hlengiwe worked in both urgent care and ambulatory care before stepping in to run the diabetes clinic where she quickly connected very well with her patients. Because of her respectful approach, the patients seemed to take her advice about eating well and exercising while taking their medications. This resulted in evidence of reduction in A1Cs and validated her approach to improving glycemic control.

Wanting more challenge at work, Hlengiwe requested work in a satellite clinic in Thoreau that is part of Crownpoint Hospital. In 2016, when the doctor she worked with left the Thoreau clinic, Hlengiwe remained there, working with another NP and was often the sole provider. She developed good working relationships with emergency room staffs and specialists in surrounding acute care hospitals and also used the PALS line at the University of New Mexico as a major resource for advice about her patients. These connections helped her take care of patients who presented with a wide variety of health care issues, including acute chest pain, active and advanced infectious disease, traumas, possible hantavirus, critical respiratory diseases, co-morbidities with complex acute illness and active suicide cases. Despite seeing such a wide variety of problems, Hlengiwe continued to focus on diabetes as well as her panel of primary patients. She believes in disease prevention and preached it to all her patients while personally modeling good health-promoting behaviors. In February of 2019, she left the clinic to work in the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna (ACL) Service Unit in Acoma where she continues to enjoy the culture and the people she serves.

In addition to her clinic work, Hlengiwe precepts students including those from FNP, medical and pharmacy programs. She is also very active in international health care and started a non-profit organization in her mother country of Zimbabwe that focuses on the medically underserved population. Founded in 2005, it’s now in its 13th year. Her dream is to start recruiting health teams from the United State USA to work beside the health teams of Zimbabwe to serve those who are least fortunate.

In 2018, Hlengiwe received a nomination for a ZIWA (Zimbabwe International Women’s Association) award for her work in Zimbabwe. She is also an active member of the Rotary Club and Toast Masters club.

Hlengiwe is a happy mother of three independent hard-working women. Two are nurses - one of whom is a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) - and her other daughter is a scientist working in the bio tech field. In 2013, Hlengiwe and one of her daughters climbed 19,341 feet to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She did this as a way to heal after suddenly losing her husband when he suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Since then, Hlengiwe has organized long fund-raising walks in Zimbabwe every vacation she takes, participating in those fund raisers by walking anywhere from 21 to 103 miles. At more than 60 years of age, Hlengiwe feels better than she did at 30. Walking and reading non-fiction are her favorite hobbies.


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