“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.” Prof. Dr. A. T. Kora
These lines by Florence Nightingale has been fully lived up to by Prof. Dr. A.T. Kora as she says “ No work or excuse is more important than the life and care of a patient”.
Dr. Kora is the Nursing Superintendent at St. Stephen’s Hospital, Delhi. She received the prestigious Florence Nightingale award from the President this year (2017).
As they say ‘You do not always have to look at famous personalities for inspiration’, Dr. Kora got her inspiration from her aunt who was the then Nursing superintendent for Delhi state. Her aunt became her role-model and motivator.
Dr. Kora joined B.Sc. Nursing at CMC College, Ludhiana in the year 1973.
For Dr. Kora at that time language was the biggest problem. She completed her intermediate in Kerala then directly went to Ludhiana and then got a Punjabi roommate and to top it all both of us didn’t know english.
For the first year of her nursing studies she was not so sure about her choice, she wanted to leave nursing and join microbiology. “Somehow I always had that feeling, but I didn’t have the courage to quit nursing, so I continued with the studies”, she said timidly.
Dr. Kora joined St. Stephen’s in 1977 as a staff nurse and has been a part of the growth of Stephens for last 40 years. She tells us, “When I joined here it was predominantly a maternity based hospital. The old hospital which is nursing college now, was the maternity wing of St. Stephen’s. We had the pre-natal, post-natal, nursery, labour room etc. in that one building and used to have 40-50 deliveries every day. I have seen all veteran doctors running in sarees to attend their patients.”
Dr. Kora recalls two events of all that innervated her to continue nursing and work for such a long period. On the second day of her joining, she had a fight with a doctor who was also the Director of the hospital. The doctor got a complaint that she is not caring properly for a patient but the story was something else. As she tells, “What happened was that while I was resuscitating a patient, some other patient started vomiting and the attendants of that patient started shouting at me to leave what I was doing and clear that mess up. I said I won’t come because resuscitating a patient is more important than cleaning mess at any point of time. The family of that patient complained to doctor and then I went on to say the same thing to the doctor as well, which turned into an argument and I didn’t know that she was the Director of the hospital at that time.” After this argument the director was amazed that a staff nurse was answering back to her and was quite impressed. She called Dr. Kora and gave her the keys to ICU section and asked her to set the unit.
Another incident she quotes as the turning point of her life was when she was posted in CCU in night duty and a patient got serious. Dr. Kora and her colleague Celine defibrillated a patient. When they saw the heart rate coming back on the monitor they started clapping hands and jumping out of joy. As she reminisces, “The treating doctor was Dr. Chabra, he saw us clapping and jumping. He continued to observe us without us knowing. At the end he came and said “well done children, well done”. “That was the turning point where I realised that by doing nursing we can save a lot of lives and then I decided to continue in nursing”. During the later years she went on to like teaching and was transferred to school of nursing just after two years of her joining.
As is said by someone, ‘Motivation is what gets you started, Commitment is what keeps you going’.Dr. A.T. Kora has committed 40 years of her life so far to nursing and teaching. What kept her going these many years?
“It started since I was in college of nursing, somehow I always had that feeling that I am not suitable for this profession. Mrs. Kanwaljeet Gill of Ludhiana was my mentor and was trying to convince me to stay back. When I joined St. Stephen’s Sister Mariamma Rajan came into the scenario. She was a very tough person but if she wanted something from you she would make sure that she is getting that out. In my starting year she would hide herself in curtains of ICU and watch me. She taught me the A B Cs of managing the school. When I would take theory classes, sister Rajan would come and stand outside the class against the wall and listen to what I was teaching, and when I went back to the staff room I’d have a lot of criticism waiting. It was as a scrubber is used to wash the vessel and shine it, the same way she brushed me up”
By 1982, Dr. Kora started officiating as principal in school of nursing. In 1989 she went back to CMC for her Masters in Psychiatric Nursing. She completed her MPhil in guidance and counselling in 2006 and Ph.D. in 2014.
Getting lost in the memories of past she tells us how different things were back then. She and her colleagues were not at all time oriented people. She would enter the ward in the morning and work until the task is complete. At times in the middle of night she would get a call and rush back to hospital (with half saree fixed and half in hand) for one or the other emergency. Gallantly she speaks, “I remember, nobody would say that it is my time to leave, so I cannot do this work. Never ever anybody had any complaints and everybody enjoyed working. Those days you are not looking at the watch, instead you are looking at the patient and you are talking and listening to what he/she has to tell you”.
She feels that nursing is a noble profession and outlook of general public towards nurses has not changed much. They still look at nurses with a lot of hope, but nurse’s outlook towards nursing has changed. Those days nurses were more concerned for scientific principles, but now, that terminology has gone off and the word rationale has come in, but nobody asks why we are doing it. Without knowing the actual purpose as to why a procedure is done, nobody can practice successfully, she says. The patients whom we took care of 15 years back when they revisited the hospital after some years they would come and touch your feet and tell you how good they felt because of your care, but now these things are seldom seen. The humane connect is also going away, she added.
Patient’s response gives Dr. Kora a lot of satisfaction in her profession but she also loves teaching and never misses a chance of teaching anywhere. She has written a book Essentials of health economics for nurses and was a part of nurse’s dictionary. She is also the content editor for revising ‘Fundamentals of Nursing’ by TNAI (Trained Nurses Association of India) and is planning to write another book on nursing administration. People consider her a strict teacher and administrator but there is another side of her where she also cares for her students and colleagues when they are sick and even prepares food for them.
She also likes visiting old age homes since her starting years. She narrated one particular incident that pulled her even more close to old aged people, “I used to visit sister Dayal regularly in St. Mary’s home. One day she introduced me to one lady who was also a nurse and lived in the room next to sister Dayal. I tried talking to her but she would not respond. When I was leaving that day I hugged her and said that I’ll meet her soon and to my surprise she smiled at me. After that I would meet her regularly and talk to her and take her to church. We celebrated her birthday and that day she was really happy. I saw remarkable change in her. That was the time I realised that every human being has the need of somebody to talk to and if you try you can bring these people to mainstream social life again. It may seem a very small thing to you to spend 10-15 minutes with them but for them it is very important”.
How does she manage to do so many things at a time? She replies firmly, “I don’t waste time and I also don’t waste any opportunity”.
Dr. Kora has received many awards and recognitions in her efficacious career of 40 years. Dr. Prof. A.T. Kora has been awarded Nursing Excellence award from TNAI in 2012, award for excellence in healthcare by RKP foundation and India’s Highest recognition in nursing ‘National Florence Nightingale Award’ in 2017. Other prestigious awards include university gold medals by Punjab University in 1991, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial award for outstanding work in M.Sc., and award with three ties for maximum membership enrollment in TNAI. Dr. Kora has also been conferred with the award for maximum contribution to humanity by Kerala Christian Association in 2017. Very modestly she gives all the credits of these awards to her seniors and mentors.
At the end of the discussion Dr. Kora gives a message for the young nurses joining nursing. Humane touch and connect is the most important aspect of nursing. Learn to practice communicating with people and use touch and listening as the basic techniques. Giving proper care to patients and listening to them is important for both the patient and your job satisfaction. Don’t waste your time and never miss an opportunity if you want to grow in your profession.