Friday, February 01, 2008

Tender loving care

Nurse Manjusha, of Specialists’ Hospital, has expertise and empathy in equal measure

By Shevlin Sebastian

A few months ago, a seven-year-old boy, Rashid (name changed), was crossing the road at Angamaly. A car hit him and ran over his arm. The boy was rushed to the Specialists’ Hospital, near Ernakulam North Station. “His right arm was soaked in blood,” says staff nurse N.T. Manjusha, 29. “The skin and flesh had peeled off and I could see the bones.”

Rashid was conscious, but was crying out in pain and fear. “He would not allow us to inspect the arm,” says Manjusha. “We had to control him by holding his shoulders and legs. I was sure his arm could not be saved. It looked like a stick.”

Rashid had lost a lot of blood and was getting weaker. He was immediately put on a glucose drip by Manjusha and blood transfusion was administered on the orders of a doctor. Slowly, his condition became stabilised.

Today, a few months later, Rashid has recovered completely and now uses his hand to write also. “When he comes for physiotherapy with his parents, he says ‘Hi’ to me and the other nurses,” says Manjusha. “I cannot forget the face of Rashid because he is the same age as my son and it could have happened to my child.”

Manjusha has a son Acquin, 7, and a one-year-old daughter, Alka, and lives in Kalamassery with businessman, Pradeep, and her in-laws. She has been employed in the Specialists’ Hospital for the past six years, and works in the wards and the casualty department.

“Most of the time we deal with accident victims,” she says. So, does she feel apprehensive when encountering emergency patients? “There is no time to feel nervous,” she says. “I am focused on listening to what the doctor says on how to save the patient’s life.”

But not all patients survive. So what is Manjusha’s reaction when a death occurs? “If the patient is young, it is very painful,” she says. “Suppose a 30-year-old married man, who has a child, dies in an accident, I will feel very sad for the family. I take out my despair by telling my husband about it.”

Manjusha has a day, as well as a night shift. The day shift starts at 8.30 a.m. and ends at 5.30 p.m. The night shift starts at 5.30 p.m. and ends the next day at 8.30 a.m. As expected, the night shift, which comes once after every fortnight, is tougher.

At night, there are two nurses on duty. After they administer the final round of medicines at midnight, one nurse takes a nap, while the other stays awake for three hours. At 3 a.m., they switch roles. At 6 a.m., both do a check on the patients. And one of the patients that Manjusha looks after is seven-year-old Gouri Suresh.

A victim of a road accident, Gouri lies on a bed, her left leg in plaster, and the pony-tailed girl is playing games on the mobile phone. “I like Manjusha very much,” she says. Says Gouri’s mother, Jayashree, 39: “Manjusha is as good as a doctor in the way she does the job. She is a very talented nurse.” Anaesthetist Dr. Thomas Sebastian says, “Manjusha is very efficient and is always pleasant with the patients.”

So, does this pleasant nurse feel depressed when she sees sick people all the time? “Not at all,” she says. “But I feel dejected when I go home and my children or family members fall sick. Then, there is no relief, either at home or the hospital, and so, it becomes difficult to handle emotionally.”

At the hospital, Manjusha is one among 60 nurses and Matron, K.V. Baby, 54, keeps a sharp eye on all of them. But she is not at all happy with the current generation. “When we were studying, there was a lot of sincerity and dedication,” she says. “But nowadays, women join the profession because they want to go abroad and earn lakhs of rupees.” As is well known, there are numerous job opportunities for nurses in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia

Most nurses used to come to hospitals like the Specialists’ to pick up on experience and go abroad. So, there was a high attrition rate. But nowadays, nurses have to sign a two-year bond. “In our youth, the nurses were keen to learn new things,” says Baby. “But now they seem lazy and obsessed about money.”

Says nurse Chintha Joseph, 37: “In some ways I agree with the matron. There are a few nurses who look at it only as a profession and not as a vocation, so they do not have the same kind of dedication as the matron.”

Some of them, she says, have been pushed into the profession because of parents who are attracted by the high salaries abroad. But they may not like nursing at all; hence, the lack of enthusiasm for the job.

But for Manjusha, who loves nursing, she has lots of enthusiasm for the job.

(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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