Nursing is perhaps the most important function in a hospital. The nurses spend the maximum time with patients, are physically involved in taking care of them, are the first port of call if the patients need anything. Nursing professionals are also drivers of the hospital imagery. They epitomise care and efficiency and the patient experience that they deliver is what the patients carry with them. Well trained, well groomed and efficient nurses are a huge asset to a hospital. They are really the backbone of hospital operations.
And yet they are often treated in hospitals in India as mere skilled workers. They are made to work long hours (double shifts are common), live in hostels with bunk beds and have little by way of personal lives.
This bugs me no end.
Very few hospital managers realise that the nurses on the hospital floors are the hospital’s best brand managers. A rude and an uncaring nurse can ruin a hospital’s reputation and no amount of advertising and communication can set that right. An ill trained nurse can be a nightmare, simply because she may end up either not summoning the doctors in time or worse may try something on her own leading to very serious consequences.
While, most hospitals know the importance of good nursing very few hospitals treat nurses as serious professionals. They are quite often treated as fixtures ordered about, bullied and sometimes abused and screamed at. Doctors rarely treat them as professional colleagues. There is a big line, which separates doctors from nurses and that is the way it always has been.
I have often wondered about the reasons for this divide. I guess much of this has got to do with the different socio economic strata that the doctors and the nurses hail from. Most nurses, which work on the hospital floors hail from relatively modest backgrounds, have little formal education (compared with the doctors they work with) and earn a small fraction of what the doctors make. The world that they inhabit is far removed from the world of doctors that they work with. These worlds intersect only in the hospitals, where the doctors are the lords and the masters of all.
If the Indian healthcare system is to grow and develop, than this must change. Nurses must be looked upon as partners in patient care, as colleagues who shoulder a huge responsibility, which is no less than that of any doctor or hospital manager. They must be treated with respect and the hospitals should look at ensuring their comfort and well being. They should be provided adequate training and growth opportunities pretty much like everybody else. Most importantly the nurses must be taught not to be ultra meek, stand upto the bullying from doctors and other hot shot hospital managers and demand that they be treated with professional courtesy.
A hospital, which takes care of its nurses, will always score higher on patient satisfaction indices. It is time that Indian hospitals paid nursing its due.
Pic courtesy http://www.flickr.com