Dr Louisa Hart and her sister Lillian, a nurse, working in Ranipet, joined Dr.Scudder to help run the little hospital. Everyday new patients came and the three ladies were worked off their feet till late into the night. The first nurses were just helpers from nearby whom Dr Scudder and Lillian Hart trained to do simple nursing care. But it proved to be really difficult – the girls would dip their fingers in to test the temperature of sterile water and had little knowledge or experience of cleanliness and sanitation. Dr.Scudder soonrealized thatwith the hospital growing, she needed well – trained professional nurses. Where was she to find good nurses? Many of the things that Dr Scudder started began with a desperate need; then she set out to fulfill that need herself first and then drew other people into the challenge to help her. So the idea of establishinga Nursing School grew in her mind. It would have a two pronged effect – she would have good nurses for her hospital and other places could benefit from them too.
It was almost a decade into the new century and although the need for good efficient nurses to manage the wards grew daily, itwas difficult to persuade girls to join this profession. Parents refused permission for their girls to ‘dirty their hands’ nursing people they did not know. Nursing was seen as a lowly profession as the girls had to deal with sickness, diseases like TB, Leprosy, cholera and death. It would be difficult for girls who became nurses to find husbands, as nursing was seen as an unclean profession. With Dr Scudder and Dr Hart visiting homes where there were young girls, persuading families of the great need, some girls came forward and joined the first batch. In 1909, the Nursing College was established. Most of the trainees were dedicated, some found a passion for their work and thus a calling for the rest of their lives which they passed on to their own daughters. It slowly became a dignified career that was known for responsibility, efficiency and service.
Now a century and a half later, at every stage of hospital care, we expect to see a nurse. Public attitudes have changed and nurses today are much respected.Whether we are critically ill, having a baby, or recovering from an operation, we cling to a nurse. Even a small clinic cannot run without a nurse today.Nursing and the Allied Health Courses are much desired and highly competed for ones in CMC. What transformed the attitudes and changed the way society looked at nurses? Brave, bold girls who went against the tide, sometimes against family pressure and made the difference.
When we look at the CMC legacy, we see that there have always beenwomen and men who did something for the first time; who went against the tide, did the unacceptable and paved the way for others to follow. Not through sheer ambition, but from wanting to serve anddo something about the many needs around them. Today, we are a hundred years away from that little hospital, but there are still many unmetneeds. Who will come forward to meet those needs?
Usha Jesudasan is a writer who lives in Vellore and has had a close relationship with CMC for over 4 decades. For many years she wrote the weekly meditation Let’s Think Together for CMC. She is the author of several books. Her two bestselling books are I Will Lie Down In Peace ( the story of her young family’s confrontation with illness and death) and Two Journeys (the journeys two women have to take when cancer enters their lives). She is also the co – author of Living In Harmony, a graded series of Peace and Values Education books for children from Class 1-10.