The 12th episode of the Our Voices podcast introduces us to Vishaka, a doctor who travelled from her home in India to work in the NHS just under one year ago. She talks about the struggles she experienced in her native country during her first years in her profession, particularly the pain of being unable to provide treatment to those who needed it because they simply did not have enough money: “Seeing people suffer, you want to help them but you can’t.”
After spending tearful evenings writing about her concerns in her journal, she decided to take proactive action in order to combat this injustice: she set up a camp where she provided medication and treatment for free to those who were too poor to pay. While providing such treatment, she encountered an old man who was extremely malnourished. She wrote about caring for this man in her journal and describes how she and the man touched each other’s feet as an ancient demonstration of respect. After treating the man, he said to her that she would one day become a great doctor. The power and sincerity of his words provided Vishaka with the motivation to make his prediction come true.
It was not long after this that Vishaka came to the UK in order to work in the NHS. She describes working there as “living the dream”. No longer did she have to wrestle with the unfairness of a system which treated people based on their ability to pay, now she was able to treat her patients based on need. It was this enthusiasm for her new environment that led to her going the entirety of one of her first shifts without eating. Vishaka’s dedication was admirable; however, she learnt that in order to take care of her patients effectively, she would also need to ensure that she took care of herself.
Nevertheless, making that extra time for her patients is something that makes Vishaka so valuable to her profession. She talks about a particular patient who was about to be discharged from the Emergency Department. The patient had recovered physically but Vishaka could see that she was still very anxious. She took the time to talk to the patient and find out what was concerning her and discovered that the patient was worried about contracting covid and the impact that might have on her health. Vishaka, sat with her, reassured her and offered her practical advice. The patient let Vishaka know just how much she had appreciated this by sending her a card. In it she wrote that she was very grateful for the doctor’s “kindness, gentleness and thoroughness”, she also described Vishaka as a “people’s doctor” and said she had been honoured to be her patient.
While dealing with the stress of the covid pandemic, Vishaka describes how she recalls those kind words whenever she needs that extra motivation to keep on going. When asked about how she manages to balance being the “people’s doctor” with the intense workload that working as a doctor currently brings, she responds: “No matter how busy you are, it takes one minute to be kind.”
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