Chennai: Most often it is the life of Mother Teresa that flashes across when we speak about nurses. However, the nursing community is largely unsung as they tend to work silently behind the scenes, acknowledging their work just to themselves. Saraswathi Vaidyanathan is one such nurse who has been presented with ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by Tamilnadu Nurses and Midwives Council recently, recognising her contribution to academics and service.
A chuffed Saraswathi is all happy and even at 77, she guides budding nursing professionals and helps women community. Although she has been officially retired, Saraswathi continues to serve the society through the not-for-profit organisation ‘Sarva Vidya’.
In conversation with News Today, the septuagenarian shares her tumultuous journey.
Hailing from a remote Mariayur, near Mayavaram, Saraswathi was a bright student right from her schooling. Having excelled in high school, she was keen to pursue medicine. “However, my parents were indifferent towards my decision. Instead they suggested me nursing profession. I took it up and joined Stanley Medical College and Hospital as a staff nurse in 1962,” Saraswathi recalls.
Soon after settling down in her professional career, she was married off. The unfortunate passing away of her first child put a damper on Saraswathi. With an understanding husband, he motivated her to enrol in BSc Nursing course.
“After graduating, I was back to the pavillion and later joined the Rheumatology department at the Government General Hospital, Chennai, in 1972. I continued specialising in the department,” she tells.
Saraswathi was then promoted as grade-2 nursing tutor in 1980. As part of her role, she served as a patient educator to bridge the knowledge gap and also taught at the School of Nursing. Her post was upgraded to grade-1 tutor in the same department.
“I was keen to complete a master’s education and I shifted my focus to writing and publishing research papers in reputed journal while I was a tutor. In 1998, I went to UK for higher qualification in Rheumatic diseases nursing course. I was a trainee for three months and then got my registration as a nurse from UK council and was there for quite some years,” the West Mambalam resident shares.
After returning to India in 1989, she continued working at Government General Hospital.
In her nursing career, Saraswathi has worked on 10 scientific publications and seven research papers. Going a step ahead, she has published multiple titles for the welfare of patient community. One among the list is Aches and Pains, originally written by Janie Hampton and was translated in Tamil by Saraswathi besides writing three additional books in Tamil.
Despite retiring from government service, Saraswathi continues to nurture several dreams by serving as a trustee and principal of Sarva Vidya.
Speaking about the trust, she adds, “We have three programmes – empower to enable, no child left behind and village connect.”
In the first programme, girls hailing from rural community are provided jobs and economic independence through patient care education. As part of the second initiative, the trust focuses on education and career building of underprivileged students and in the third programme, the trust conducts health camps from time to time in villages and develop skills.