On this day we remember Florence Nightingale, the nurse who gave dignity to the nursing profession during the Crimean War, in which she organised to care for wounded soldiers. Today’s Nightingales are with us in our COVID-19 hospitals also saving lives.
OVER the last few days, I have been in touch with close friends who have bedridden parents, not related to COVID-19, but with age-related problems. Every conversation begins and ends with a tribute to the nurses looking after their parents. My friends come from different walks of life and distant places. In a world where parents and children are separated by cities if not continents, sometimes the demand for work and time keeps them separate. The world over, primary caregivers to the sick and the elderly are always the immediate family. Yet where hospitalization not advised or necessary and nursing in affordable private nurses provided home-based care. Anyone who has been hospitalized would know the importance of a nurse in the ward or the room as the case may be. Given strict visiting times and rules, often the face of the nurse is the only face they see through the day.
While there is no substitute for the personal care of a relative or loved one, critically ill patients need professional care of a trained nurse. Each one of my friends who has had occasion to employ a nurse for a loved one has told me about the friendship that develops between the patient and the caregiving nurse. After the work of a surgeon or doctor is done, recovery depends on the love and affection that is given by the caregiver who is often the nurse. Love and compassion are what tales for recovery of all living beings from illness, not by medicine alone can we service disease.
The care and compassion I have seen in nurses are unbelievable. It is not for money alone that they give themselves so generously. In fact, they care for the patient with utmost sincerity and dedication in discharge of their noble function of nursing. And yet their detachment amazes me. When their task is done they move on graciously to the next patient, giving the same care love and affection.
I have seen nurses give hone based care to my own parents and admired them for their service of the elderly who can no longer care for themselves. I still remember the face of the nurse who cared for me 45 years ago when I was first hospitalized for a surgery that needed a process of healing. She kept me happy and engaged with her. I have never forgotten her face and recall it everytime I feel I am in need to care and nurturing, such was the impression she left on my mind, though I never saw her again after a week of nursing me.
The image of the Mayor of Mumbai who is a professional nurse putting on her uniform and going back to her hospital in the time of Covid-19 crisis to inspire her former colleagues will forever stay with me as an example of leafing from the front She broke the pandemic of fear as if today “ hear I am, come and get me “. The amazing thing about this pandemic has been that it has brought out the best in us and in our young resident doctors and nurses, it has brought out their spirit of service often at the cost of their lives
Our nurses are predominantly female and are often exposed to the hazard of sexual harassment at work from a patient or a co-worker, yet they have rarely taken their cases to court perhaps they are too busy serving others. It is up to us as civil society to understand their situation and ensure for them a safe working environment.