Talk:Nursing in Ancient Times

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The quality of mercy is doubly blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that receives Mercy is the younger sister of sympathy both being born of the humane spirit. The objective search for the origin of medicine may lead us to Hippocrates or Atreya, but the subjective search for the origin of medicine will always lead us to this subtle spirit of mercy or sympathy, the fountain source of insp�iration and the origin of the medical science. Dr. Payne, the well known American Historian has well said, �The basis of medicine is sympathy and the desire to help others and whatever is done with this end, is called medicine.�


Caraka and Susruta, the greatest medical works of India have in unequivocal terms ascribed the origin of medical science to this universal spirit of mercy and love.


The whole man is a conglomeration of such varied factors as body, mind and spirit. The first is material and absolutely visible and examinable. The second can be inferred by its actions while the third is yet in the field of speculation The diverse natures of these component factors that go to make the whole man has provided cause for contention between religions and philosophies, between sciences and superstitions, and priests and physicians.


It is remarkable that birth of the Buddha coincided with the height of intellectual development of India The age between B. C 600 to 200 A D was the time when scientific medicine was evolved and took a definite shape It was Buddha who extended the benefits of scientific medicine to humanity at large motivated by the spirit of compassion. The spirit of Buddha was, later on, taken up by Christ Buddhism and Christianity are the two principal religions which turned the prosaic scientific knowledge into one of practical utility and universal welfare by infusing in it the divine quality of compassion.


The ball which was set rolling by Buddha gathered immense momentum in course of time. Though there are scattered references to the art of nursing in ancient literature, no definitely systematic practice of nursing is described before the period of Caraka and Susruta. By the time of Caraka, nursing had already become all acknowledged part of great importance in treatment.


Ayurveda gives nursing a significant place by making it one of the four legs on which therapeusis stands.


�The physician, the drugs, the attendant and the patient constitute the four basic factors of treatment. Possessed of required qualities, they lead to the earliest cure of disease."


Thus a nurse was considered as important as the Vaidya, the medicine and the patient.


An orphan yearns for a mother and a child seeks solace and comfort in the gentle company of his mother. A patient is very much like an orphan or a child and who else but a woman, who is ordained by nature for motherly functions and whose heart pulsates with motherly instinct radiating tenderness, mercy and love in all directions, can be more fitted for this profession of nursing? Where would the patient be if her motherly heart did not provide the necessary warmth, love, solace, and tenderness? It is these qualities of her heart that makes a female nurse far more useful than a male nurse. It would be much more apt to replace the word �sister� applied to nurses in modern times by the far more significant word �mother'.


The spirit of service combined with the training in the art of nursing makes the woman the proper instrument for the administration of cure to tlie ailing patient. Caraka describes the qualities needed in a nurse thus:


�Knowledge of nursing, skill, affection for the master (patient) and cleanliness - these four are the tetrad of desiderata in the attending person.�


The period of Asoka�s reign which was pre-eminently Buddhistic was the golden period of medical progress in India. The Institution of hospitals was a well-established fact in India in the 3rd century B C when Europe could not even dream of it. The trunk roads, instead of it being lined with ordinary trees, were lined with trees useful for medical purposes. Missionaries were sent to foreign countries to provide spiritual and medical aid. Buddhist monks were expert surgeons. It is no wonder thus that the art of nursing attained a well-developed form during this period. The following extract from Kasyapa Samhita, bears ample testimony to the advanced state of nursing during that period.


�After this should be secured a body of attendants of good behaviour, distinguished for purity and cleanliness of habits, possessed of cleverness and skill, endowed with kindness, competent to cook food and curries, clever in bathing or washing a patient, well conversant in rubbing or pressing the limbs, raising a patient or helping him to walk, well-skilled in making or cleaning beds, able to pound drugs, always ready, patient and skilful to wait upon one who is ailing and never unwilling to do what is commanded by the physician."


The qualities required in a female nurse are well enumerated in the following extract

�To become a good nurse, a woman must possess conside�rable intelligence, good education, healthy physique, good manners, an even temper, a sympathetic temperament and deft hand. To these she must add habits of observation, punctuality, obedience, cleanliness, a sense of proportion and a capacity for and habit of accurate statement. Training can only strengthen these qualities and habits. It cannot produce them."


There is an interesting story depicting to what noble heights the institution of nursing reached in the Buddhist period. It also depicts clearly how the public took undue advantage of it turning its very strength into its weakness.