Trinidad and Tobago

Tenisha Samuel-Duke, Manager of the Under 18s Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Team, former National Player, and Registered Nurse says her recent tour as part of the medical team at the 2023 Rugby Americas North (RAN) Men’s Under 19s and Senior Women’s XVs Tournament in Jamaica was an “experience of a lifetime”.

Tenisha, who took the World Rugby First Aid In Rugby (FAIR) Educator course and Immediate Care In Rugby (ICIR) course ahead of the 2023 RAN XVs in July, is no stranger to the medical field. A nurse for over 15 years, Tenisha currently works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Port-Of-Spain General Hospital assisting babies requiring critical care and as such, she was the perfect candidate to participate in the courses.

The FAIR and ICIR courses were both facilitated by RAN, with financial support from World Rugby, and Tenisha says she is thrilled that there is now a push to have clinical personnel with the appropriate training on-hand at events to manage the immediate care of the players; especially given that rugby is primarily a contact sport.

“This is a really big step forward,” she says. “RAN and World Rugby now require that each team at their events has one or two persons that are ICIR-trained on the sidelines ready to assist.”

This meant that when the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Under 19s and Senior Women’s XVs teams travelled to Jamaica to play at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Bowl 2023 RAN, Tenisha was able to use both her professional experience and her new certifications to assist the players and teams with any necessary immediate care pitch-side.

“What I would like to see is this international requirement for ICIR personnel translated to our local games as well,” she says. “Right now, we don’t tend to have a designated ‘medical tent’, just the Ambulance Service. What this means, is that for every little thing, we go straight to the Ambulance Service. I think by having a specific medical tent to manage minor medical issues that don’t require escalation would be a wonderful step in the right direction.”

The Perfect Combination

Tenisha’s background in both rugby and nursing means she has the ideal combination of knowledge to be able to provide Immediate Care In Rugby.

“I started playing rugby when I was 17 years old,” she says. “My father played rugby for the Defense Force and my brother had started with Royalians Rugby Football Club. I was playing netball at the time, and I decided to try rugby as an alternative sport because I was not enjoying netball.”

From there, Tenisha ended up playing for the Royalians for 20 years, and with the National Team for 15 years. She played in tournaments such as the Pan American Games and various RAN competitions.

“I also coached school rugby for two years and was the Youth Development Officer (YDO) for one year,” she says. “I broke my hand in 2009 and that is when I started coaching. Then, I broke my foot in 2014 and that is when I became the YDO. I also had three children starting in 2013, so I ended up officially retiring from playing rugby in 2018.”

Tenisha says that it was while she was playing on the national team, she completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in General Nursing.

“I also did my Critical Cardiac Care Nursing qualifications and worked with cardiac patients,” she says. “When I saw the ICIR, I jumped at the opportunity to get on board to merge my two passions – rugby and immediate care nursing. This now gives me the ability to do primary assessments, assist with secondary assessments, and to build on the knowledge that I already have as an Intensive Care Nurse. Doing the FAIR Educator course has also enabled me the ability teach others First Aid in rugby and to equip even more people with a basic understanding of what to do in a situation requiring medical attention. I am really thankful for both of the opportunities, and I really believe it will help the development of rugby in our region immensely.”

The Vision

Tenisha says short-term, the dream would be to see local tournaments in Trinidad and Tobago have ICIR personnel available to assist at all games, as well as to educate enough people in First Aid so that anyone on the sidelines may also be able to help, should the need arise.

“Spreading this knowledge within the rugby community is a great start,” she says. “I would love to be able to facilitate First Aid education in rugby both in Trinidad and Tobago, and throughout the wider Caribbean, so that we will have the best for our athletes; both in immediate care and as it relates to the management of injuries.”

Longer-term, Tenisha says she has her sights set on doing the Advanced ICIR course, as well as gaining as much international and local experience as part of a rugby medical team as possible.

“I would ideally love to be at every RAN or World Rugby tournament to assist in ICIR and get more experience in the field,” she says. “I think having trained professionals in immediate care is so crucial to rugby and I am excited to be part of this emerging field. I would really like to thank the Trinidad and Tobago Rugby Union for selecting me to participate in both courses, as well as Dr. Dalia Jordan-Brown for pushing me throughout the journey. I hope I am able use my areas of expertise to be a strong asset to rugby in Trinidad and Tobago, and to the global rugby community at large.”