'At Work' is a weekly column that takes a peak at people with unique professions, their living patterns and the changes the calling has seen in the years.

The care with which home nurses clean the wounds, the patience with which they give a sponge bath to the patients and assist them to exercise, can be expected from a few close ones in today's fast-paced life.

They stay at the patient's house and provide necessary care and support. P.Premalatha, who nursed a woman with cancer for eight years, recalls with teary eyes the loss she felt when the patient passed away. “I had become an integral part of the family.” She had to bathe the woman, feed her, give medicines on time, and help her with physiotherapy. “I served her the same way as I would, if my own parents or family members are bedridden,” she says.

“Initially, it may be difficult to handle the patients. It is not easy to treat the wounds, bathe the patient. You also need to get used to the smell of medicines. With time I got used to the work and realised the importance of this service,” says M. Kalaiselvi. Her family members were initially opposed to her work, but gave in later.

She says that there are rare instances where they stay out of work, as there is huge demand for home nurses in the city. The elderly need company and someone to attend to their needs. There are both men and women home nurses. Many people working abroad leave the elderly under the care of home nurses, says J. Tamilvizhi, who enjoys reading out stories to patients under her care.

The pay varies depending on the work timings and the patient's condition. Some of the voluntary organisations that provide home nurses say that the pay is around Rs.1,250 a week. Many young women, particularly those from rural areas, after their Class X take up home nurse training programmes and enrol with the organisations.

On the problems they encounter, a 22-year old home nurse, who did not want to be named, said she chose to quit her job after some men working in the house started harassing her.

“Some patients don't cooperate as they are shy about letting a stranger nurse them. But we explain to them the need to comply,” says B. Madonna, a home nurse. “It was my dream to become a doctor and serve the ailing. Since I am from a poor background, I could not afford the medical profession. But now I am able to serve as a home nurse. Ultimately, the joy of being blessed by the people I look after is what keeps me going.”

Keywords: home nurses