For over a decade now, Shusrusa has proved a boon for those seeking home nurses to care for the unwell, accident victims and the elderly. Registered as a voluntary organisation, Shusrusa, the brainchild of Swarna Mishra, came into being on April 8, 2003, with the twin objective of providing home nursing services for the ailing and thereby training and ensuring the livelihood of economically-backward rural women from different parts of the State.
Swarna, who holds an MSc in Mathematics was based in Paradip, a port town of Odisha, since her marriage, as her husband was a traffic manager at Paradip Port Trust. Having always been inclined towards working for the uplift of economically backward people, she took up the cause of the Paradip dock workers. She had earlier been working towards improving literacy among slum dwellers and the poor from various backgrounds, at her house since 1972. With these experiences, she had many ideas germinating in her mind.
“I always wanted to do something for the needy so that society in general benefits from it. When I shifted to Bhubaneswar in 2000, the idea to start a home nursing training centre struck me. I saw many elders being left alone at home without being cared for either due to their children’s occupational compulsions or negligence. I garnered the support of a few like-minded friends and supporters who joined me to start this initiative,” explains Swarna.
When Shusrusa was started, some of her friends contributed `5,000 each, which helped her begin the work. “My husband and mother-in-law (both of whom are no more now) were a huge support and helped me build Shusrusa.’’
Though in the beginning, Shusrusa trained both girls and boys in home nursing with 20 in each batch, now, they have restricted selection to only girls who have studied at least till Class IX and are able to read and write. The selection is based on the health condition of the trainee, ability to grasp and learn, and the keenness to serve the ailing and elderly. They are provided with free boarding, lodging and training for two months. The modules in which the girls are trained include basic nursing, first aid, infant care, geriatric care, nutrition and patient diet, yoga, physiotherapy and psychological counselling.
“The training curriculum is designed and executed by well known and experienced doctors, psychiatrists, dieticians, nurses, social scientists and behavioural science experts. After the course, we conduct an exam and if the candidates succeed, they are immediately absorbed in the houses. The demand for home nurses is so high that none of our trainees remain unemployed,’’ explains Swarna, who is also the secretary of Shusrusa and oversees the overall functioning of the organisation.
As soon as the training is complete, Swarna along with some of the other members of the organisation visit the homes of those who seek home nurses. Once the team is satisfied about the patient and the environment of the house, they allot a trainee to work there. “As our trainees are all girls, we need to scrutinise the households before appointing any of them as home nurses. We also do surprise checks. Moreover, nurses collect their monthly salaries at the Shusrusa office; we interact with them to find out if they are comfortable or have any problems coping with the family,’’ says Swarna.
So far, Shusrusa has trained 777 youngsters in the age group of 18 to 35 and helped 2,600 houses with home nurses. In the case of the distressed, like those who endured dowry harassment, and widows seeking training, the upper age limit is relaxed by a year or two.
On the challenges that Swarna had to face before venturing on the mission, she says there was a lot of discouragement from people in the city who were getting home nurses mostly from Kerala and West Bengal. Some organisations had taken an initiative but failed to provide the service. Finance was also an issue. “Ours was the first such initiative though now there are a couple of other organisations in various places. But I was sure I would take up the cause and make it successful. Today, after a decade, we have the support of the Government of Odisha’s Women and Child Development Department, and companies like Paradeep Phosphates, Dorabjee Tata Trust and Tech Mahindra. Efforts do pay but one needs to have patience and perseverance,’’ smiles Swarna.
Shusrusa imparts training four times a year for two months. There are a few dropouts from every batch but that is minimal. At present, Shusrusa plans to shift to its own new premises currently under construction at the Palashpali area. It has arranged its own transport for commuting, conducts training programme for other courses like tea-making and cookery in addition to nursing and housekeeping for geriatrics.
Ask Swarna, who is in her late 60s, if she is happy at the end of the day and the reply is positive. “But I miss my husband (he died of brain haemorrhage in 2006 when he was 66). He had been a pillar of strength for me and guided me to take the organisation forward.”
She is now looking for a person who can carry the mantle with the same dedication as she did, so that the mission continues unhindered. “I really wish I can identify the right person,’’ says Swarna whose children too, apart from the team members, have contributed to taking Shusrusa to a position of trust among people.