Deepa Jagannathan, 27, is a nurse working in the cardiac care unit of the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute. She chose this career because she “always wanted to take care of people and this is a noble profession”.
Rs 4,500 in the first month when she joined the profession in 2004 after doing BSc in nursing. She went on to do a PG diploma course in clinical research and is earning Rs 10,000 at present.
She has a dream. Like her sister, who works as a nurse in Ireland, she wants to go abroad, to “meet new people, visit new places, handle new instruments and earn more money”. And with the growing need for well-trained nurses in the UK, her dream could be fulfilled soon.
Hers is not an isolated case. Experienced nurses like Jagannathan are flying out of the country, adding to the shortage of good nurses here. R Sapra, principal, School of Nursing, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, says, “The moment they gain some experience, they migrate to countries like the US, England, Ireland and Saudi Arabia. Or even Singapore. This definitely creates a shortage. In Europe, the nurse-population ratio is 1:150; in India, it is 1:2250.”
“It is the lure of money,” says Jaya Kumari, nursing superintendent, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. “Despite the revised salary structure in the Sixth Pay Commission, nurses want more. The opportunity to work with newer technology and the scope of further studies tilt the balance in favour of foreign countries.”
Poor training adds to the lack of qualified nurses in the country. “In the metros, the quality of training is up to the mark,” says Sapra. However, aspiring nurses should thoroughly check institutes in smaller cities as “most lack proper infrastructure and clinical experience.” “Their sub-standard education produces under-qualified nurses,” she adds.
Nursing, usually a woman’s domain in India, is attracting men as well. “Though none of the Delhi institutes are taking male students, Karnataka and Rajasthan have quite a number of them,” says Sapra.
Men are doing well in male wards, OTs, OPDs, orthopaedic care, casualty and emergency wards, but overall, women seem to be better suited to the job. “Men are welcome, but are not as well accepted as female nurses,” says Grace Saxena, nursing superintendent, Delhi Heart and Lung Institute. This is one gender barrier waiting to be breached.
What’s it about?
Nurses manage the day-to-day care of patients, administering them the prescribed medicines and teaching them to take care of themselves. Nurses also have to keep a watchful eye on patients and keep track of any changes in their physical condition, mental attitude, reaction to drugs or other treatment. Healthcare like nursing has been practised in some form or the other for thousands of years. Noblewomen, including the wives of emperors, helped take care of the ill in ancient Rome. Nursing as we know it was officially recognised in the 1850s because of the legendary work done by the English nurse Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern professional nursing
. Entry level: Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 per month
. Middle level: Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000 per month
. Senior level: Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 per month
. One can earn more at the entry level in the government sector
. An inherent desire to take care of the ill and the infirm
. Selfless dedication
. Emotional strength
. Ability to work for long hours
. Logical and analogical reasoning powers
. Ability to empathise rather than sympathise with the patient
. Technical competence and a comfort level with new technology
How do i get there?
. After Class X, one can do ANM (auxiliary nursing and midwifery). It is a two-year diploma programme.
. One may also do the three-and-a-half year diploma in general nursing and midwifery (GNM) after Class XII
. A physical sciences and biology combination is required in the Plus Two level to do the four-year BSc nursing programme. This can be followed up with an MSc, MPhil and PhD for career growth
Institutes & urls
. CMC, Vellore
. AIIMS, Delhi
. RAK College of Nursing, Delhi
. AFMC, Pune
. St Stephen’s Hospital, Delhi
Pros & Cons
. Nurses never remain unemployed. Trained nurses are immediately absorbed within and outside the country
. Job security
. Mental satisfaction, as one is part of a process that alleviates suffering
. Contribution of nurses to healthcare needs more recognition
. Odd working hours (night shifts are common)
Nurses are in demand everywhere — from hospitals and clinics to Red Cross and various colleges
What is the scope of work for a nurse in India?
After doing a BSc in nursing, one can work in the clinical side or as a teacher at the various schools and colleges of nursing. A nurse who has an MSc can take up administrative posts such as that of a principal in a nursing college or work as registrar in the state councils or the Indian nursing council. An MPhil or PhD would enable a nurse to work as a researcher or research coordinator. Nurses with diplomas like ANM (auxiliary nursing midwifery) or GNM (general nursing and midwifery) can work in healthcare centres and hospitals as multi-purpose workers or care providers.
Where can a nurse find employment?
In hospitals and nursing homes — that everyone knows. They can also work for the Red Cross Society, Nursing Councils — they provide the highest possible positions to a nurse — rural and urban PHCs (primary health centres) and MCH (maternal and child health services). They can also work in CHEB (Central Bureau of Health Education), TNAI (Trained Nurses Association of India) as secretaries and secretary general, in colleges, schools (school health services), etc. Moreover, they can run nurses’ bureaus and work as self-employed professionals.
What are the challenges facing the profession today?
In the field of healthcare, hi-tech equipment is introduced on a regular basis and different modalities of medical care are coming up. A nurse has to know everything about handling these technologies and equipment.
Quality care is expected of a nurse but the nurse patient-ratio in our country is still very poor, leading to increased workload for a nurse, which can become quite stressful.
R Sapra, principal, School of Nursing, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh