The mention of the word ‘Nurse’ conjures up the image of a compassionate lady in white uniform who selflessly attends to patients. Administering IV fluids, ensuring that the patients take their medicines on time, and monitoring their health, nurses perform numerous duties. Hence, it is appropriate that they are usually referred to as ‘Sister’ because irrespective of the age, region or religion of the patient, the nurses treat everyone with care and compassion.
The practice of nursing and Florence Nightingale
The practice of nursing has been in existence since ancient times, but it was the legendary Florence Nightingale who promoted the formal nursing profession as we know it today. The iconic “Lady with the Lamp” ushered in the era of educated and compassionate professional nurses. Her efforts were instrumental in starting nursing training in India at St Stevens Hospital in Delhi in 1867. Nightingale, Clara Barton (founder of American Red Cross), Mary Ezra Mahoney (the first ever African-American nursing college graduate) and Virginia Lynch (regarded as the mother of Forensic nursing) are globally renowned for their contributions to nursing. In its infancy, nursing was primarily focused on treatment of soldiers injured in wars or during times of epidemics, butwith the passage of time, it has evolved into a multi-dimensional and critical area of healthcare globally. Nurses are today, the wheels that propel the healthcare vehicle forward.
A step short of being the physicians, modern nurses practice a lot of specialities and they also have varying degrees of authority to prescribe medicines. With the diversified nature of requirements, the modern nursing services and the role of nurses have been rapidly changing. In many areas, the age-old conventions are being replaced by contemporary need-based considerations.In countries such as the UK and USA, nurse specialists are even authorized in many states to diagnose medical conditions and prescribe medications or treatment therapies in consultation with qualified doctors. In India, the profession of nursing is highly respected and critical force multiplier due to the paucity of qualified doctors. The scope and range of services offered by nurses has only expanded with the emergence of private healthcare operators.
Today, nurses are not only working in the institutional care sector, but also playing a key role in the development of home-based healthcare services in India. There are more than 100 million elderly people in India, and a large number of them suffer from chronic diseases such as heart, kidney, or respiratory illnesses. With increase in life expectancy, this elderly population needs expert support and care in their daily life tasks. Nurses are actively involved in meeting this requirement. They provide at-home care to people who are mobility challenged and deliver services like physiotherapy etc.
Communicable diseases and pandemic management is another area where nurses put in exemplary effort, often risking their own wellness. Alongside providing medical care to the diseased people, they also take care of their emotional and mental wellness. When a patient has to spend time in isolation due to diseases such as TB, cancer or viral outbreaks like SARS and Covid-19, nurses act as the bridge between them and outside world. The massive chronic disease burden makes nursing a relentless job with very high expectations.
The nurses in India continue striding forward and setting new benchmarks of service delivery despite the resource constraints. The healthcare providers and authorities are also now focusing more on supporting the nurses by creating more training opportunities. The ever smiling ‘Sister’ often becomes a pillar of strength during a patient’s recovery process. Quite often patients fondly recall the name of the nurse who provided care during a past hospitalization. With the advancement of technology and emergence of new areas of healthcare, nursing is going to play an increasingly pivotal role in the years ahead.
Dr Vishal Sehgal is Medical Director at Portea Medical
(This story has been published from a wire agency without modifications to the text)