“Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS), Whitefield aims to provide free medical care to the sick and ailing with the dedication, commitment, love and the best of skills, so that they will be cured in body, mind and spirit. Our Mission is to provide high quality medical care free of charge to all irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and financial status in an atmosphere of love and care.”

An atmosphere of Love and Care

This part of the Mission Statement has always and will continue to inspire me as a nurse. It has been a blessing and the grace of Sathya Sai Baba (Swami) that an opportunity to work with nurses at the temple of healing (SSSIHMS) came about in 2009. The opportunity started with a simple talk on the basics of infection control during my visit, followed by sharing ‘pain flowsheets’ and ‘medication reconciliation sheets’ as resources and examples of nursing documentation. There was time to meet the nurses, learn about nursing tasks, and get to know what they would like to collaborate on.

Tele-educaiton for Continuing Nursing Education Programme

At the end of this interaction, I felt embarrassed for all the days I complained about my tiring 12-hour shifts where I had the help of aides to assist with mundane patient care activities—making the bed, toilet assistance, getting water for patients, answering patient calls while other patients’ alarms were going off. Nurses here do everything. They simply smiled when I asked, “do you not have nursing aides to assist”? Their dedication to the profession was inspiring. Their yearning to learn more in depth about neurosciences was refreshing. I felt extremely lucky to be engaging with fellow nurses who were working in  this temple of healing, and I felt that my interactions should not end with that simple workshop in 2009.

Therefore, we collaborated with staff at SSSIHMS Whitefield and started CPR training. Staff doctors and overseas doctors cooperated and worked in unity to set up the initial training sessions. The general hospitals of the Sathya Sai Organization (in Puttaparthi and in Whitefield) were also included in these training sessions.  I conducted 6 sessions at SSSIHMS Whitefield over two days in January 2010. Eventually the trainees began to train others at the hospital and the efforts to continue CPR training continued internally.

Sister Vasanthi, a nurse at SSSIHMS, is an important reason for the growth and success of the nursing program. Her motivation to update nurses with relevant knowledge is an example of what leadership and collaboration means in the world of nursing. Her drive to seek ongoing education programs for nurses was based on her vision to have the very best in nursing training and education.  These efforts slowly formed the formal Continuing Nursing Education Program (CNE) which continue today.

Tele-Education on Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's Education

The purpose of the CNE Program is to update and improve the knowledge of nurses caring for patients in the Sathya Sai hospitals so that patients benefit from the best and latest practices in delivering efficient and effective care. This program with dedicated teachers instilled the nurses with knowledge, skills, and Sathya Sai Baba’s ideal healthcare principles and wisdom on how to compassionately and properly care for patients.  Today, these exceptional nurses are now clinical educators in the hospital sharing their expertise with new nurses.

More projects followed—workshops, writing and implementing protocols. We worked on creating a Nursing Manual for Protocols and Procedures. This protocol is a compilation of best practices from top hospitals around the world adapted to the local environment.

Dr. Ravindra Goyal, a retired neurosurgeon, came with experience in teaching nurses in Michigan for their nursing neuro certification. He brought this experience with him to SSSIHMS. He conducted teaching sessions and case discussion with neurosurgical residents, consulted on neurosurgery telemedicine service, and taught nurses during clinical rounds. His dedication to nursing education has been very inspiring to all.

Between Dr. Goyal and myself, we have collaborated with nursing management at SSSIHMS and created and taught two courses—the Foundations of Nursing and the Critical Care course, and we have given several short talks on core neurological topics over the last 8 years. Most recently, in 2016, we created and facilitated the Neuroscience Critical Care Nursing Certificate program for critical care nurses. Most of the courses were conducted from the US using Skype. A total of 9 nurses participated. These nurses were evaluated and presented with the certificates during the 16th Hospital Anniversary Celebrations in Whitefield on January 19, 2017. During our visits to Whitefield, we continue to meet the nursing staff and conduct live discussions as well.

Providing ideas and suggestions, working with colleagues at SSSIHMS,  Whitefield, discovering ways to conduct classes remotely, assuring availability of the nurses outside of their assigned shift times, confirming willingness of staff to volunteer with setup, and securing approval from the Director were all required to bring this program to fruition. The Director of SSSIHMS Whitefield, Dr. Sundaresh emphasizes  that “free care should not be sub-standard care.” He has been fully supportive of any program that equips his staff with the best skills and tools.

As I write this article reflecting on Sathya Sai Baba’s love for humanity and His  work, I cannot help but wonder how this program came about. The experience of being able to work in the field of nursing and collaborating with nurses at SSSIHMS is inexplicable and a source of great joy. Everyone who has assisted in this program has gone above and beyond to make it a success. I hope and pray that this collaboration continues and inspires others and that we learn from one another as we continue to care for ALL patients in the best possible way – Sathya Sai Baba’s way.

Lessons Learned

This service has taught me several lessons. I learned that one’s own skills, knowledge, and experience should be utilized to do service to others. Second, being proactive and reaching out to offer your time is invaluable. For our course, communicating, preparing, and finalizing the project involved a lot of people. Whether it was reaching out to offer assistance or keeping the moving parts of the project on track, being proactive helped keep the project on track. Third, there is no greater feeling than the feeling of joy and inspiration at the end of the service. I felt more energetic and less tired. It was (and still is) an addiction to do more. Finally, I had to remind myself to remove the “I”, the feeling of doership. I was not the only one needed to do this service. If I wasn’t there, someone else would have done it. Swami’s work would have been done regardless.

Personally, the transformation was significant. It has brought me closer to my guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. While it has helped some of the nurses at SSSIHMS and given an opportunity for people to be involved, it has connected me to His work and His Mission in a way that is unique to my spiritual journey.

While Sathya Sai Baba’s hospitals are an attestation of healthcare being a right and not a privilege, the people working in, around and for SSSIHMS are a huge part of this model. Even more importantly, the people doing service for Sathya Sai Baba in innumerable ways are themselves getting transformed. Selfless service transforms us into better human beings. It is a tangible way to give back to society and satisfy our conscience.  I believe each one of us has the ability to tap into our conscience and do service wherever and whenever feasible.

Alpa Uchil, M.P.H., R.N., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine