Friday, 20 April 2012

A visit to Latur, the earthquake-prone city

-by Aparna Bhasin

Healthcare is one of India’s largest sectors, both in terms of revenue and employment, and is continuing to expand rapidly. However, India faces a huge shortage of medical personnel to meet the demands of rapid expansion (PWC, 2007). This not only includes doctors and nurses, but also paramedics and support staff such as nursing assistants. The PACE center in Latur is contributing to filling this gap. The center provides certification in bedside assistance as an alternative to formal higher education, at a nominal cost. The course is three months long, with one month spent in the classroom and the remainder in practical training at a local hospital. Most of our students are then placed with a local hospital where their starting salary is Rs. 3,500.

I recently visited the center in Latur, and want to share the stories that I heard with you.

So, what exactly does a Nursing Assistant do? Nursing assistants are important members of the health care team, and are vital to the daily functioning of a hospital or health center. A nursing assistant is trained to perform basic patient care under the supervision of a nurse, including measuring vital signs and assisting patients with daily living activities. Additionally, they have a relationship with the patient, which is of utmost importance to patient recovery, while simultaneously providing a source of information to other medical personnel.

How does the PACE center in Latur prepare students?

The center has two qualified teachers dedicated to our students during the first month of theoretical training. This includes following the bedside assistance syllabus in the classroom and using the demonstration room to help students apply the concepts they learn. Our teachers are committed to helping students succeed: they provide extra classes for the students who are struggling, and use interactive teaching styles that students can relate to.

Moreover, since a large part of the job is about interaction with the patients, teachers also work to develop students’ soft skills. In fact the teachers find major changes in student behavior even within the first week, especially in their speech and manner of interaction with people.

Who are our students?

Students are from the surrounding areas of semi-urban and rural Maharashtra. Most of them dropped out of school after completing their 8th standard, and were mostly working at home prior to enrolling at PACE.

Many of our students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and cannot afford the course fee of Rs. 3000. So instead they pay in monthly installments using their hospital stipends.
Our students are eager and committed to learning, with hopes of gaining employment to support themselves and their families.

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