Nurse Training in Coimbatore, India: A Photo Essay

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. 

These photos (by Scott Streble) were taken during our nurse training exchange with our partner in India, G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial (GKNM) Hospital in Coimbatore – at the time the coronavirus outbreak was only reported in China.

Since then, life for billions of people around the globe has changed dramatically. In an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, the 1.3 billion people in India are in full lockdown. The GKNM pediatric cardiac unit is currently performing only emergency heart surgeries, but the hospital is prepared for COVID-19-related cases. The nurses are among those who are on the front lines.

Hemalatha soothing a young patient a few days after heart surgery. “When babies come to the ICU, they are critically sick. Then we get to care for them. They leave this place with a smile. This is satisfaction.”

Jody Doll-Wilhelm, R.N., Jessica Andersen, R.N. and Lauren Gilseth, R.R.T., are Children’s HeartLink volunteers from Mayo Clinic. Along with the rest of their team, they are partnered with the GKNM pediatric cardiac team in Coimbatore.

Hemalatha wears the green uniform of a novice nurse with fewer than 3 years of hospital experience. She joined the medical team only 7 months ago, after finishing nursing school, and looks forward to additional training “to receive valuable knowledge and skills and more confidence.”

Christy (center), a charge nurse, has been working at the hospital for 24 years. “After surgery, it is the nurse who plays a key role when twists and turns can happen. We play a proud role of being a nurse. We need more training. We have been trained well, but we have to keep our knowledge current and be on track. Children’s HeartLink is moving us to the next level, and we nurses are eager and excited to advance.”

A shift-in-charge nurse Geethamani, on right, receiving training. “Nurses are very humble, but at the same time, they are very important for the patients, at some moments even more than doctors. Children’s HeartLink and Mayo Clinic training is very helpful for us. We are learning and advancing on how to take care of the patients with chest open, on ECMO (which provides heart-lung support outside of the child’s body) and in critical situations. They are teaching us in a very nice and friendly way.”

Jethruthmary, on right: “Children are not expecting anything from us, but we are here to give good care to them. When they come here – chest open and with all these tubes after surgery – we often can’t even identify their faces. And then we see these faces happy. We are so proud when we send these children home.”

Children’s HeartLink trains all members of the pediatric cardiac team, but there is a special emphasis on training nurses. Nurses play a vital role as members of this team, and they touch all children treated for congenital heart disease. They are closest to the patients during the most critical moments, day and night, and are a key link to families. 

Nurses and midwives account for nearly 50% of the global health workforce and also represent more than 50% of the global shortage of health workers. WHO estimates that the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2023.

To support nurse education and training, learn about our Mary McMahon Busch Nurse Training Fund