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My life inside the Shalini Hospital Network

I’ve always taken after my Dad, but now I’m starting to scare myself.  My Dad is an environmental health and safety and management consultant and it never really occurred to me that I would end up doing something so similar to him, especially not during my time in India.  As the frustrations of buying SIM cards and making seemingly endless, and extremely pointless, trips to the dreaded FRRO office have ended, they have been replaced by new concerns about work, work, and more work.  Since KGVK has its own system of fellows, interns, and consultants, I have been transformed from a Clinton Fellow who might have been working on a single Public Health project, to a Quality Assurance Guru.  Well no, I’m not considered a guru, but I do live in the guesthouse of the KGVK “Gurukul,” and sometimes I like to use the term a tad too liberally.  My quality assurance portfolio here at KGVK covers all aspects of the Shalini Hospitals Networks: 1 mobile clinic, 2 community-level hospitals, 8 school health camps, 9 quality circle meetings a month, an on-site Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) training program with 7 faculty members and 27 students…. and a partridge in a pear tree.

I’m working on defining system processes for the hospitals, the mobile clinic, and the health camps to create the standard against which the reality of what happens in KGVK facilities can be judged.  When gaps occur, I create Action Plans that categorize problems, then break them down individually, allowing me to identify actionable solutions for each problem and track my progress methodically.  My goal is to integrate this methodology into the organizational culture of the Healthcare Department, as similar efforts are being made across KGVK.  As far as the ANM training program and quality circle meetings, I am leading quality assurance training sessions with faculty/staff respectively.  The sessions with the ANMs are particularly fun, as Will (my counterpart in the Education Department) and I are attempting to model the interactive, creative method of learning we’d like the ANM faculty to use.  Language barrier tends to be a small issue, but we often bridge the divide with warm-up games that have uncovered some absolute gems about the ANMs – their abiding love for Shah Rukh Khan, their amazing ability to provide acronyms for everything, even their favorite food (GLV = green leafy vegetables, FYI), and their almost unanimous love of the Durga Puja holiday.

Not everything in Ranchi is based around work.  Recently, the Durga Puja holiday swept us all off our feet with the nearby village’s impressive use of old-school Casio sound systems and central Ranchi’s unending supply of wooden carts laden with sweet snacks, fresh lime soda, and masala nuts.  My favorite part of the weekend was spending the first night of Durga Puja in Hutup village, where we were the guests of some KGVK schoolteachers.  We were overfed, we were featured in approximately 800 family photos, and at one point we were placed in the shrine of Durga and made to pose awkwardly while women possessed with the spirit of Durga shook wildly at our feet.  It was overwhelmingly surreal and at first, I didn’t know what to think of it.  It wasn’t until the ceremony was over and I caught sight of the hospital’s canteen cook, who gave me a jovial wave and immediately bounded over the say hello, that I realized how big of an honor it had been to even be in Hutup that night.  Now when I see him, he mimes being a Durga-possessed lady, and I assume my incredibly awkward “shrine pose.”  It’s weird, but it’s yet another reason why I like being here, even if sometimes/most of the time I look silly, people take pictures of me looking silly, and I feel silly not knowing what anyone, ever, is saying.

As ever, tomorrow is a mixed bag.  I know I’m leading a hospital Quality Circle meeting, I know I will eat lunch in the Canteen, I know there will be a fantastic movie on the “Z Studio” channel at 9:00 pm.  As much as I know these things, I woke up just today with a completely different conception of how the day would turn out.  I had envisioned a day like the one I just described, the “normal” day I haven’t yet had since I’ve been here.  Part of me thinks I’d just love to lie in bed and watch a movie right now; the other, larger part, knows I prefer heading home tonight the way I am right now: tired, dirty, and anxious to begin the next day’s work.

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