The ethic of service with a smile
Nursing is no mere profession. It is a vocation and a
vocation is a high calling in life. These words by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to some nursing recruits recently, capture the
essence of what serving the public really means. ‘A smiling
nurse and kind care could go a long way in giving strength to an
ailing patient in his or her endeavour to recover from an
illness’, the President told the recruits at their passing-out
What the President told the nurses is equally applicable to
medical doctors and other professionals who come into close
contact with the people and whose concern should be the people.
That is, people should be handled with immense care and in the
case of doctors and nurses this point could not be emphasized
enough because the experience of most patients is that warmly
smiling and cheerful medical personnel tend to bring them
immediate relief almost.
It would be highly unfair to make sweeping generalizations in
these matters because many are the medical personnel who are not
only cordial towards their patients but are also selflessly
committed to their well being. However, this description does
not fit all the doctors and nurses the public comes across and
the problem could be compounded by the fact that many state
sector medical personnel are not conscience-stricken when it
comes to wielding the strike-weapon.
There was a time and age when a patient could go to his
family physician with the expectation of not only being cared
for with a smile and warm friendliness but with the hope, which
was not usually disappointed, of having unlimited humanity
bestowed on him by his doctor. Such doctors are a dying breed
today, but this is the ideal doctor the poor of this land in
particular wish for when they visit state hospitals. Provide the
public this ideal service, we urge our medical personnel.
Of course, economic necessity takes its toll. One cannot
expect the majority of medical personnel to be happy with their
lot when living costs rise relentlessly and some of their
legitimate concerns go unaddressed. But the more strike-prone
medical personnel need to consider the time-honoured principle
that the end does not always justify the means. We are for
having a highly contented medical profession at the service of
the people but this does not justify state doctors and nurses in
resorting to strike action to redress their grievances.
The preferred course of action is to engage the state medical
authorities in a dialogue in resolving issues.
Besides, doctors and nurses in particular need to consider
that they are not engaged in mere professions and jobs but in
vocations. The latter are value-based activities that are driven
by the zeal to serve humanity. If personnel such as doctors and
nurses are continuing to command the respect of the public, it
is because the people do not see them as just any other category
of worker. The doctor, for them, for instance, is a special
person with a special calling and for this reason is expected to
be exemplary in every aspect of his or her life.
The same goes for nurses and other categories of medical
personnel. For the general public, these persons are of crucial
importance because they deliver the people from torment and
suffering and in very many instances deliver them from the jaws
of death. Accordingly, they are seen as exceptional persons and
are to that extent revered by the people.
Therefore, medical personnel in particular should ensure that
they do not ‘fall from grace’ in the eyes of the public.
They are looked up to and respected by the public and need to
bear this in mind. For them, service with a smile is inescapable
and they need to ensure that these smiles are spontaneous. They
cannot afford to go the way other workers usually do.
Medical personnel must create value and not be seen as the
creators of a culture of death. Let them not be cynical about
their work on earth. This is the hope of the silent majority.