New Delhi: India is short of 1.94 million nurses, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of data from the Indian Nursing Council (INC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). International Nurses Day is observed on May 12 every year, and the acute shortage of nurses–attributable to low recruitment, migration, attrition and drop-outs due to poor working conditions– has experts worried.
As of 2014, there were 1.79 million registered nurses/midwives and 786,796 auxiliary nurse midwives in India, according to INC data.
Source: Indian Nursing Council; Figures for personnel registered with the INC
On average, India’s nurse-to-population ratio is 1:475.14, including registered nurses and midwives and lady health visitors, according to NHP 2016. The WHO recommends a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:500.
In the public health system, the government has a norm of one nurse per primary health centre and seven per community health centre. By those standards, rural India is short of more than 13,000 nurses, according to data from the Rural Health Statistics 2016.
There has been a 130 per cent rise in the number of sanctioned posts for nurses in rural public health centres–from 34,061 in 2005 to 78,530 in 2016. During the same period, the shortage fell from 13,352 to 13,115 nurses. Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had the maximum proportion of vacancies based on required numbers, at 64.2 per cent, 50.5 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively.
Fewer takers for nursing college seats,
“Admissions to nursing colleges have come down by nearly half across the country. Half of south Indian nursing colleges are in the process of shutting down,” Devi Shetty, a Padma Bhushan-awarded cardiac surgeon, wrote in the Economic Times on September 19, 2015.
“The shortage in developing countries generally is linked to inadequate training facilities, but in India seats in nursing colleges are increasingly falling vacant and the annual supply of nurses is dwindling. Furthermore, those who are qualifying are eagerly looking for better paid jobs in richer countries,” Subir Roy wrote in the Business Standard on November 3, 2015.
The curricula in nursing colleges is often better suited to the developed countries rather than in resource-poor settings in nurses’ home countries, the WHO bulletin pointed out.
There are 2,958 institutions for general nurse midwives with an admission capacity of 118,406 students, 1,921 institutions for auxiliary nurse midwives with an admission capacity of 54,859, according to data from the National Health Profile 2016.
There was large-scale migration of nurses to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Canada, Australia, the European continent and other countries which offered better salaries and facilities, this IANS report quoted doctors as saying.
“Ours is the only country where a nurse who has worked in the ICU for 20 years is legally not allowed to prescribe simple painkillers or give an injection without the presence of a doctor. Even in litigation-happy US, 67 per cent of anaesthesia is given by nurses, not doctors,” Mr Shetty wrote in her September 2015 story.
“The nursing profession is given low social status (in India) because of the prevalent religious and societal traditions,” this 2011 paper argued. “Nursing work involves rendering services on a personal level to the patient and has chances of being exposed to bodily fluids and contaminations.”
“Going by current trend, around half of private hospitals and most of government hospitals in the country will have to close down in the next five years because of an acute shortage of nurses,” Mr Roy warned.