She ran around the cramped nursery barefoot,totally oblivious to any personal discomfort or risk…sharps, shards of glass..nothing came in the way of her unwavering service to the suffering little souls .
A diminutive, unassuming figure,she had a homely air about her. One had to see her at her job to believe her passion. There wasn’t an iota of sophistication or snobbishness in her approach. But she was armed with what was most needed of her- empathy and a very sharp clinical eye! In her world of preemies and small for date infants,nothing escaped her attention..in a quick glance she could confidently pick up a seizure or gauge an impending life threatening infection. With similar efficiency and tenderness,she would feed her wards the milk from their mothers through feeding tubes or with spoons,as was appropriate for their age and weight…and lovingly massage the tiny things with coconut oil for good weight gain and thermal protection.

It must be pretty obvious by now that l am talking about a nurse here,right? Well,what isn’t so obvious is her journey and that of so many others like her.

Most of our nurses come from extremely simple backgrounds,often from the marginalized sections of the society.
Earning an education is a formidable task in such sections..and to follow it up with a job,that too a profession that is as demanding as nursing,is no mean feat.

Yet our nurses turn their blood into sweat in the service of humanity,day after day. They are the pillars on which the entire healthcare industry stands…but are they given their due ? While it may appear that the world glorifies the nursing profession and equates every nurse with the revered Florence Nightingale, the unpleasant truth is that there is much darkness in the lives of our ‘ladies with the lamps’! Our nurses are rampantly exploited..they are mercilessly overworked, shamelessly underpaid and often, there are other needless pressures on them.
Inspite of such a grave scenario,in my own experience as a healthcare professional,l have never found a nurse sulking over her lot and shirking her duties!

And shall I let you into a secret? It is the nurses who spend a whole lot more time with patients than do doctors and that gives them an edge. In medical practice,one finds doctors relying heavily on the clinical observations of experienced and sharp eyed nurses to help them with diagnosing and treating patients! Intelligent and enterprising nurses often work shoulder to shoulder with doctors in imparting quality healthcare to patients.
In our country we have nurses with various qualifications..there are ANMs,GNMs,B.Scs,M.Scs etc etc. The degrees notwithstanding,what sets a great nurse apart from others is her empathy,her ability to soothe and comfort a suffering soul and last but not the least,a good clinical eye.

No good doctor worth his or her salt ever ignores the inputs from a seasoned and observant nurse!The Covid 19 pandemic is still fresh in our memories. During those days,the on-duty healthcare professionals had to don and work in PPE ( personal protection equipment) kits ,every shift. Only someone who has been inside one knows just how stifling and suffocating the kit is, especially with the respirators/ double masks, protective eye wear and face shields. The fogging of the eyewear and shields made it extremely difficult for doctors and nurses to see their way around,in the Covid wards! To add to that,there were a host of procedures to be performed on patients , regularly!No one could afford a slip at any step… and who did suffer the most? Yes,you got that right,our nurses ! Simply because they were the ones who spent the most time in the kits,working long, long hours..now, donning the PPE kit was the easy part…..the tricky part was the doffing! One wrong step…and the ‘doffee’ would have exposed herself or himself to an unknown load of the Covid -19 bug! And no prizes for guessing this, many of the nurses themselves fell prey to Covid, right,left and centre! Hence even the best hospitals faced severe shortage of staff which translated into extra working hours for the existing ones.

To count then,there was the Covid 19 virus , the being-trapped-in-the PPE kit- feeling,the interminably long working hours…one would think it was enough,right? Wrong!The icing on the cake was that once the nurses got into the kits, there was no way of getting out of them for 8 to 12 hours of duty,straight! In other words ,no washroom breaks,no tiffin breaks,not even a sip of water! Why? You may wonder…why could the nurse not take off the PPE kit and take a washroom or meal break? The reason,my friend, is quite siimple.Once doffed, every PPE kit had to be discarded,which meant a new one would have to be donned to return to the Covid wards ! An impossible luxury for a third world country like ours! Hence no breaks were factored in at all.

So many of our nurses fainted because of a lack of oxygen behind the so called ‘protective’ layers!
It is not easy to put one’s troubles,personal and professional,on the back burner and tend to others’ miseries..yet that is exactly what each one of our nurses has done,without fail.

Can society even fathom the extent of their dedication to service? Can the world grasp the depth of their sacrifice? Does anyone remember hearing a word of protest from the nursing professionals against their pathetic working conditions? I don’t!

Do we acknowledge their immeasurable contributions? Have we,as a civilized society, done our bit for this class of working women ( and men, occasionally)? As l see my nurses quietly and efficiently going about their duties ,stopping every now and then by a bedside to soothe,comfort,tend to their patients,my heart swells with pride ,knowing that my patients are in the best of hands!

It is commonplace to hear good things being spoken about doctors,clinicians..let us take a moment to appreciate our unsung heroes,our Florence Nightingales. Let us tell them we do see them and express our gratitude..

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