A noble profession – but not for everyone!
When Ammi developed a bed sore so deep that it took a year, and a change of dressing twice a day, to heal, I questioned the nursing care she had been given at one of the best hospitals in Pakistan. Throughout her prolonged illness I watched with concern (and had numerous confrontations with the medical staff) as, off and on, I came across nurses in several parts of the world who seemed to lack the spirit and essence of the nursing profession.
With my father’s recent attack of pneumonia and hospitalization I have come face-to-face with nursing care in public and private hospitals in Hong Kong. There is only one clear conclusion that I can come to. If a person is not temperamentally cut out to be a nurse, then they should spare the sick people whom they will come into contact with during their nursing careers.
Nursing is not just a job – actually no profession is just a job – but nursing is a calling. Caring for sick people is a great responsibility. If you do not have compassion and respect for those in your care, you should pack up your bags and turn in your nursing license. We all know that a person who is ill is really vulnerable. He is totally at the mercy of those who are tending to him. Connected to all sorts of tubes – providing saline, antibiotics, oxygen and what have you – they are probably in a lot of pain or, at the very least, a great deal of discomfort. They are unsure of when or if they will get well. They have lost all control of their bodies and their lives. A nurse should not take away the one thing they have left – their dignity. Be gentle with them. Be understanding. Make it easier on them rather than more difficult.
I have a great deal of respect for nurses. I know it is not an easy profession. I think it takes really special qualities to be a good nurse. The legendary ‘Florence Nightingale’, has I am sure, been an inspiration for every nurse. I have come across nurses who treat their patients with the utmost care – who talk even to infants or those in a coma because they do not want to dehumanize them. My mother often talked about a nurse who was a friend of my grandmother’s who was extremely selfless. My mother called her an angel who brought joy and comfort to so many who were in her care.
That is why when I come across nurses who are gruff, rough and dismissive of patients, with not a drop of human kindness in them, I totally lose it! Why the hell would they take up nursing as a profession if, to them, patients are merely a nuisance and their near and dear ones are a source of annoyance wanting constant updates on the patient’s condition?
These questions often plague me and they came to me yet again when my father was admitted to one of the most beautiful, clean, well-equipped and well-run public hospitals in Hong Kong. It even had a lovely Starbucks outlet on the ground floor with free wifi where I spent many hours when I was thrown out of the ward.
The only thing lacking at this hospital was the attitude of some of the nurses who treated patients with so little respect and compassion, that my father was heard to say to one of them “I am sick – please be gentle”. My brother and I just couldn’t bear to hear this and so we shifted him to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital which is a private hospital. I was able to stay with him and keep an eye on the care he was being given.
Everyone thought we were a bit mad because, as permanent residents of Hong Kong, at the Queen Mary Hospital we would only have to pay 1/36th of the total billed amount.
At the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, we have to pay for the private room, the tests, the two doctors and everything else. But the decision was made – cost was not a consideration for us – he is our father, he has given us so much, he is responsible for who we are and he deserves to be provided with the best in healthcare that we can afford.
At the Hong Kong Adventist we have found all the nurses attending to my father to be gentle, sweet, encouraging and professional. They care for the patients, talk to them, cajole them, joke with them. The cynics might say that these nurses are paid to be nice. That is not really the point. It really has to do with what your calling is. There were nurses at the Queen Mary Hospital who were equally gentle and compassionate. What put us off was that there were some who were very rough and it worried us to leave him in their care.
My father was totally immobilized when he was admitted into the Adventist. He was on oxygen and was taken there in an ambulance. On the last day the doctor and nurses made sure that he was sitting down and was taking a few steps so that as he recovered at home, he would be able to manage with a little assistane from us.
They told us that unless he started moving around a bit with some help, he would be completely bedridden for a long long time. He needed to be encouraged to eat and drink and move his limbs as this would aid his complete recovery.
Thank God he is finally home at my brother’s house in Hong Kong. It will take weeks before he can cope on his own but the care that he received in hospital has got him well on his way. Of course it helps that he has my brother and me with him as well as a young Indonesian domestic helper who is an absolute angel at helping to take care of him. She is a Muslim girl who says that as she was growing up she was taught that it was a blessing to be able to care for older people. Hmmm … ? Now how many of us think that way?
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