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Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa Lanka’s trailblazing Nightingale

She is indeed a Lady with the Lamp. As she does the rounds at the hospital, her kindness and commitment sparkle a ray of hope to those in distress and pain.

With a vision set on true nursing based on humanity and dedication, Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa, Training Coordinator - Accident and Orthopaedic Service and Triage team leader of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, had trailblazed a path in the nursing career that is an example to many. Well versed and efficient in all that she takes up, Pushpa had brought a healing touch to many in their moments of distress.

For Zoysa, a career as a nurse had never been on the cards.

“I never considered the idea of pursuing a career in this field. I grew up in a medical background as my father, Wijedasa Zoysa was an ayurvedic doctor. I was the youngest in a family of four and each of us followed different educational streams. My mother wanted me to become a doctor because she wanted someone to carry on the family profession through Western medicine but I did not obtain enough marks to enter the Medical Faculty.”

“Meanwhile, my sisters had secretly sent my application for nursing and when interviews were called in I was appalled. I went to take part in the interview after much debate,” she explained how she walked into the profession.

Her first experience was, she says, one she would never forget. She had fainted at the mere sight of a severely burnt patient. She had later undergone a similar ordeal after witnessing a delivery. Many times she had contemplated the idea of quitting but as time healed her agitation she was able to commit herself to three years of training in the Nurses Training School.

Her first appointment was to the medical section of the National Hospital.

She was then transferred in turn to the Burns Unit and later to the Surgical Unit and Intensive Care Unit. She gathered experience at all these units.

Pictures by Saman Sri Wedage

“Those days our life was purely centred around treating patients. We did not have time to explore hidden talents or social communication. I wanted to change this set up. Creativity emerges out of new ideas,” she said adding that she was greatly influenced by the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale.

“She had to face a lot of difficulties on her mission as society did not approve of her actions but her courage never faltered,” Pushpa says.

“I excelled in aesthetics and sports during my school days at Girls High School, Mount Lavinia, and have demonstrated leadership qualities in all those streams. Once I got into nursing I started neglecting some of those talents. I wonder whether I should continue to do so. I gathered a crowd and related my ideas to them. We founded the Vindana Kavaya, an arts society which includes employees form all sections of the National Hospital,” she reflected. The Society had put together many aesthetic activities within the hospital premises, she said.

The Accident Unit was launched at the National Hospital in 1991 with the assistance of the Government of Finland. The Finnish consultants elected me to take part in a Triage Disaster Management Project that will be conducted in Singapore.

“Triage means sorting out patients according to their conditions. We divide the patients to three groups: critical, urgent and moderate type and non-urgent. This system helps save more lives in an emergency. I was the only nurse trained in Sri Lanka,” she said.

She had also received a scholarship to Japan to follow training on coordination for disaster management, nursing management, nursing supervision, trauma care and Triage. “Government workers have no desire to execute something original. They come to posts to carry on what is already being done. That is why such institutions do not develop. It does not need a lot of people to change the world. I am working with a limited crowd and using resources to give out the best in me. One of my missions is to mould Government workers who will dispense their utmost service to their institutions.” Pushpa conducts training programmes for the Army, Navy and Air Force in disaster management. She had held workshops islandwide and had taken part in raising public awareness towards health through the media.

“The public were hesitant to deal with first aid. They are much more acknowledged about the subject and are preventing accidents now.” She had faced many unforgettable incidents in her career spanning over 20 years. One such incident occurred during the Central Bank bomb blast.

“It was the first ever disaster experience at a Sri Lankan hospital and more than 1,500 casualties were admitted. Amid the confusion I felt someone tugging at my apron. It was a man on the brink of death. He had lost his arms and legs and his abdomen was split open but he was conscious as he was fighting for his life. He wanted some water and though we do not give water to a person in such a critical condition it was a moment which you have to think of humanity. I ran to get a glass of water but he had passed away by then. It was heart wrenching. His face mirrored the horror of terrorism.” She had won over 60 awards for her service in the field, having clinched eight accolades this year itself. Among the awards are the ‘Humanitarian and Voluntary Services 2003’ awarded by TOYP, an award given by Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and Channel Eye and a special award presented by the three Forces.

“The Nightingale’s Diary was published later in life. My book, Hediyakage Anuvadaneeya Dina Satahan is the second book of that nature to be published in the world.”

“I have introduced a new concept into nursing and I am very proud of that. My dream is to make the hospital a home to all patients visiting the place,” she remarked.

“In most instances we forget the importance of spiritual healing. Health should be an overall management. It should not be limited to the physical aspect”


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