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Serving Humanity…

By Ibrahim H. Rizwan

Nursing and nurses have always served humanity irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender or
age. On numerous occasions, i.e. war, catastrophe or epidemic, nurses have shown their
significance by their relentless unequivocal effort in caring many valuable souls and reducing
people’s pain and sufferings. In fact, even during peace or untroubled times, a well skilled troupe
of nurses is one of the prerequisites for smooth operation of a society. Satirically enough, in spite
of knowing all these, nurses’ input in our present living standard is almost always underrated.
Hence to delve into the unsung nurturing life of nurses we visited Nursing Institute, one of the
best known training institutes for nurses.

The Institute
Nestled between Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Central Shaheed Minar, the Nursing
Institute (NI) is one of the oldest and of biggest capacity in its kind in the country. It enrols 188
students every year, out of total 1135 students admitted into various nursing schools throughout
the country. However, as per former principal of the institute, Ms. Ershad Begum Chowdhury, in
its toddler days (back in 1940s) the institute was clearly struggling even in attracting students.
Even though students were enrolled every three months, the intake never exceeded 15 students.
This situation prevailed until 1960 when a visionary Col. M.M. Haque took over. On his guidance
plus farsightedness the institute got the shape it has now and for the first time in 1961 the intake
climbed to 150, which it has maintained until now. At present NI have about 750 students in four
different levels of their courses and supervised by Principal Ms. Majeda Khatun. While talking to
her, we came to know about an upcoming change in syllabi. Hopefully next session on, minimum
admission requirement would be pushed up to minimum HSC level (which is SSC right now) and
some other changes in course curriculum in order to keep students’ skill updated with modern
innovation and trends.

Path to Help
Studying to be a nurse starts after completing school graduation (SSC). Students have to study
for 4 years at any nurse training institute. These 4 years include 3 years study for general diploma
and final 1 year for any specialisation i.e. Midwifery or Orthopaedics. Then students have to go on
hectic internship training for 3 years more. In most cases nursing students, do not go for further
higher studies than this but for those who are more enthusiastic there are options for doing B.Sc
and subsequently M.Sc and above in this field.
Social Stigma
One of the most unfortunate things about this noble profession is that it has an unwelcoming
social stigma attached to it. While sharing personal experience, Mr. Md. Jahangir Alam Mia, Staff
Nurse of Emergency Department, Dhaka Medical College Hospital said that in our society nursing
as a profession is seldom looked upon as dignified. He complained that most stereotype this
profession among the least liked option of livelihood. However, he also argued that social
perception is different in other countries. He thinks that it is high time for perceptual change of
mass about this righteous vocation since this subject is as scientific, technical, disciplined, crucial
and needs as much dedication from students’ part as in any other field.

Gender Biased?!
Another part of the social stereotyping is that nursing is considered as a profession suitable only
for females. And surprisingly enough, effect of this opinion thoroughly reflected from the gender
ratio among students. Roughly speaking the current male:female ratio in the institute is 1:10.
When asked about this unnatural difference, we were assured that neither the syllabus nor the
specified duties restrict men from entering this profession but only mass perception is the reason
behind this unbalanced gender quotient.

Pride of Bangladesh
During our visit at NI, we were fortunate enough to be able to meet Ms. Akhtar Banu, one of most
respected figure in nursing community. She is a former principal of NI and has served in
Directorate of Nursing Service as well as a consultant in World Bank. Her other past
appointments include Secretary General of Bangladesh Nurses Association (BNA). Most
important of all, recently she was awarded the Princess Nagarindra Award for her outstanding
contribution in nursing. Princess Nagarindra Award Foundation in Thailand was established with
an aim to reward individuals with significant contribution in developing nursing education, service
and profession. Thus this receiving this award has made each and every member of Bangladesh
nursing community feel proud. In fact when Ms. Banu reached NI a cheer rang among teachers,
students and other staffs alike not just because of her recent international award but also due to
the fact that most of the present senior teachers (including the present principal) are her students.

Expert Opinions
According to Ms. Banu, the basic duty of a nurse is to take care of patients. However, she
explained that a good nurse should always care of patients in all aspects like physically, mentally
and spiritually. Being highly skilled and acclaimed both nationally and internationally we also
enquired Ms. Banu the reason behind difference in performance of Bangladeshi nurses and
nurses in abroad. Her answer explained that first there’s the matter of facility and infrastructure.
Most of the foreign countries have better and advanced technologies than what we use; latest
gadgets obviously enhance their performance. Secondly, culturally we are not as helping to each
as other cultures. She explained this by citing an example that foreign cultures have the tendency
of saying ‘May I help you?’ but this does not happen in our case. She iterated that at NI utmost
care is taken so that students acquire this serving attitude.
While referring to below average performance of some nurses a source on condition of anonymity
disclosed that at times clinics, in order to save some cash, recruit unqualified and untrained or
minimally trained individuals as nurses. Devoid of any scientific or in-depth knowledge naturally
these so-called-nurses fail to live up to their mark. As per him, there is a huge difference between
the performance of a qualified and unqualified person in this profession.

Despite being the most sought after institute among its category, NI also has some soft zones. As
per Principal Ms. Khatun, the institute’s major weak point is its accommodation facility. Presently,
the establishment provides dormitory facility only to female students; hence, male students are
forced to rent apartments where they become victim of local hoodlums and other such nuisances.
Further number of classrooms also needs to be increased. The principal pointed out that some
other training institutes has equal number of teaching staffs yet they enrol much less number of
students than NI. She feels confident that care and individual attention towards students can be
improved if number of students matches the establishment’s capacity.

Smile: The Best Medicine

In spite of all the hurdles, while talking to a bunch of PTS or Preliminary Training Students (1st
year student in common terms), there were no signs of social stigma and any sort of
discrepancies affecting their morale but only cheerful smiles. In fact, one student Mahmuda Akter
Lima, quite confidently replied that she is studying nursing because she loves to help people.
Another student, Joydeep Biswas sounded same although he said that it is a profession which
pays better dividend both financially and mentally.

The effort and contribution of any vocation should never be underrated and especially if the
profession is as noble and philanthropic as of nursing. We thoroughly agree with Mr. Jahangir
that with progress in other aspects of our society it is high time that the mass should change the
biased and illogical attitude. After all, nursing means serving people, serving humanity at all
costs, at all times.

* The writer wishes to express gratitude to teaching staffs at Nursing Institute, especially Principal Ms. Majeda Khatun as
well as former Principals Ms. Akhtar Banu and Ms. Ershad Begum Chowdhury and all students for their support in
preparing this article.

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