How can work become service

In the nursing profession


Any work done in the spirit of dedication is converted into service
We constantly talk and discuss about service. But service is not so easy. We think that any work we do for others becomes service. This conception is not correct. When can a work be called service? Sri Krishna says “Do you work/ perform your duties and responsibilities in the spirit of sacrifice and dedication?” When any work is done in the spirit of dedication, that work is converted into service.

I will tell you about an incident. A road was being constructed in a village. Many people were engaged in the preparations. A passerby asked a laborer what he was engaged in. The laborer said I do some work, get money, and I live my life with this money. He moves forward and asks another laborer what he was engaged in. This second laborer said their contractor has assigned them in this work, he receives his wages, and lives his life. The passerby goes further ahead and asks the next laborer what he is occupied in. This laborer gives a different answer. See how great his perspective is! He says ‘Sir, when this road is made, so many people will cross this path and reach their destinations. I have received this good fortune to serve so many people. I am blessed.’ This third laborer’s attitude is so unique and beautiful. This is the attitude of service. That is why he is grateful for this opportunity. This is the perspective/ attitude of service.

Whether we be a doctor or nurse or any staff of the hospital, we have to do our work with this perspective. If we don’t work with this attitude, we will not be able to serve in the correct manner.

I have been working in different hospitals of the Ramakrishna Mission for more than 40 years. I’d like to share my experience with you’ll. If we see closely, a nurse has a big responsibility. I have seen that a nurse is one of the main pillars in health services. No hospital can function and serve without a nurse – even if the best of doctors and other support staff are there in any hospital. If there are no skilled nurses, people will not be served appropriately.My message to the nurses in the audience, and also those who are going to take oath today, is that your entire life is committed and dedicated to the service of the ailing people. You have a big responsibility on your shoulders.

Why is the medical profession – be it a doctor or nurse – called a noble profession? For one reason alone. Because they are directly connected with the life and death of human beings. If you are not fully aware and conscious, it can lead to a disaster to the life of the patient. That is why you have such a huge responsibility.

Work done with human touch transforms the work into service
Often, when we have been working on something for many years, we become mechanical. This is natural. And we see our alertness and vigilance slowly reducing, and negligence setting in.

For example, I have often seen a situation when a patient’s blood has to be taken, for some investigation. The patient is on the bed and on a drip. The nurse doesn’t want to prick him again and takes the blood with the same needle as the glucose drip. We all know what happens when this is done. The blood sugar goes up! Doctors are also shocked that even a patient who didn’t have blood sugar is being diagnosed with it! All through the patient was non-diabetic. And all of the sudden the patient becomes so highly diabetic! How is it possible? Then after investigation, it is revealed that the needle of the glucose drip was used for taking the blood for investigation. The blood sample was therefore mixed with sugar and a non-diabetic patient is diagnosed wrongly. With this error, a patient’s life can be at stake! So when we are working in a hospital, at any level, the alertness and vigilance is very important.

Now a days we see that healthcare services have become commercialized. Because of this we see how money is made from poor patients, as well as service orientation has disappeared from treatment. There is also a technicalization of healthcare service. We now do most thing using machines. Earlier the doctors would investigate and diagnose with their own hands. Because of technicalization, physical and clinical examination has reduced considerably. Now a days, with small symptoms, expensive tests are prescribed – say an ultrasonogram for a stomach ache, or a CT scan and so on.

There are two aspects to treatment. One is the humanitarian aspect of medicine and the second is the technical aspect. The humanitarian aspect is very important. When a patient gets admitted to any hospital, he doesn’t look at the machines when he makes a choice of hospital. He goes for the sake of the doctors and nurses, and expects that they treat him/ her with love and care.

I would like to talk about an incident. When I was with the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital in Kankhal, a rich man from Haridwar was admitted in our hospital. Curious I asked that man, “Sir, you are a very rich person in Haridwar. Why did you come to our small hospital?” He said, “Swamiji, I have money and can go anywhere. I know that your hospital doesn’t even have all facilities. Your cabins don’t have TV and phone also. Still I have come because the people who work in your hospital – the doctors and nurses and other staff – work in the spirit of service – with a human touch and feeling. That is why I am here. They serve with their heart – with compassion and love.”

I have seen so many patients in the last 40 years. I have seen that half the illness goes away when a nurse or doctor deals with love, care and concernwith the patient. When doctors go on rounds in the hospital, if they just ask with a smiling face – “Sir how are you? Are you well?” On hearing that the patient starts feeling well. When a patient is crying with pain if you go and say – “Don’t worry, we are taking care of you, you are on good medication, you will be well soon”, they will be pleased. This is what they seek from the healthcare professional. With just this much of concern, you can help the patient recover 50%, I assure this.

This is the attitude with which you have to serve – not with callousness and unconcern. With this, the patient will surely recover well. And you will also feel satisfied.

Work done as service brings great satisfaction and joy
There are few doctors and many nurses in the audience. If you have been involved in serving a patient who is struggling with life and not likely to survive, recovers his health and is happily discharged, I am sure you also must be feeling great satisfaction. Your heart will be filled with joy.

All you nursing students here will take their oath in the capping ceremony just now and will serve patients. Some time you may feel that salaries are low, or working conditions are not conducive. However if you serve properly, money, name, fame will run after you.

Many young doctors would come to me in Kolkata when I was heading the hospital there. They would tell us that salaries or fees are not very high, how will we survive, etc. I would tell them – you serve with dedication and shraddha. After a few days, patients and money will follow. You will not have to run after them. A couple of years later, the same doctors would come back to me and say – “Swamiji, what you said 2-3 years back has come true. We don’t have time to eat or sleep either! Patients run after us with money, and I have to say that I won’t be able to take one more case!”

So dear friends, remember that it is for you to keep on working and serving. Money, fame, name, all will follow. You have to have patience. The problem is that people are not able to maintain patience now-a-days. Everybody wants instant results. We have passed from the nursing school 3 – 3.5 years back, why can’t we get high pays? But keep patience. It may be a few years later, but your desire will surely be fulfilled if there is truth, dedication and shraddha behind your service.

Florence Nightingale – the epitome of a nurse
You must have seen the picture of Florence Nightingale. If you read her life, you will be moved to tears and will be shocked to see what true service is. Florence Nightingale was not a nurse to start with. When the World War started, she was distressed when she saw the wounded soldiers. She started going to every camp where wounded soldiers were living. When all medical officers would rest in the night, she would go to each soldier all through the night. There was no electricity in that era. To see and talk to each patient, dress their wounds, she would carry a lamp in her hands. She would ask each soldier what their trouble was, and serve them. That is why she was called ‘the lady with the lamp’. The wounded soldiers would say that half their pain and troubles were gone just talking to her, in her presence.

Work done with love for others transforms the work into service
Dear friends, love has a power of penetration. The intellect goes some distance. Knowledge also goes some distance. But love has such a piercing power that goes very very far, and touches the innermost recesses of our heart. This is why, whenever we do any service, why not do it with love?

Do your 7-8 hour duty with a smiling face – the entire atmosphere changes. So you can change the atmosphere of the hospital with your attitude. So work with a smile, work with joy. Why do we keep a sad face when we work? If someone finds joy in work, he/ she will never carry a sad face around. We have to work with that attitude.

Therefore I started out saying that it is not so easy to serve. A lot of patience is needed for service. You cannot do anything without patience in any field or profession. So work with love. You don’t have to spend more time for this either! You don’t have to spend any money. You only have to change your mindset and attitude. You can achieve everything with this.

So as an elder brother, I request the nurses sitting here – whatever work you do, do it with faith, dedication and integrity. Our scriptures say – whatever you do, do with faith/ shraddha. Any work done with these three qualities will be beautiful and will turn into service.It will not remain mere work.

When do we call any work service? When any work is imbued with a large purpose/ spirit.

A nurses oath commits her to society
You’ll take the oath today. After this oath if you don’t work appropriately, then it is dishonesty to society and before that, it is dishonesty to oneself. Also, this is no simple oath. It has been taken after lighting a lamp. In front of everyone – with fire as the witness –that as a nurse we will serve with dedication, faith and integrity – without any argument or discrimination – rising beyond all caste and religion.

Once you take this oath, you are committed to society. You are committed to your profession. Keep this in mind as you take your oath. And as you start your practice as a nurse, do it with the attitude of service and love.

Swami Vivekananda would constantly say – where are you going to look for God in the temples, mosques and churches. God is standing in front of you in the form of the ailing, the handicapped, the non-educated. He said – ‘Service to Man is Service to God’. Serve them first he says again and again.

I have participated in this event today, and am very happy to have got this opportunity to talk with nurses – who are service professionals.

May your lives be filled with joy and sweetness, is my prayer to Radharani, Vrindavan Biharilal, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.

I close with this sloka:
सर्वेभवन्तुसुखिनःMay all beings be happy
सर्वेसन्तुनिरामयाःMay all beings be healthy

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