India Short Of Nearly Two Million Nurses

A nurse cares for an abandoned infant with albinism at the Palna facility in Delhi.

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.

There was a shortage of 2.5 million nurses in India In 2010, according to this WHO bulletin. In the same year, India had 1.23 million registered nurses and registered midwives, according to INC data.

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.

In the public health system, the government has a norm of one nurse per primary health centre and seven per community health centre. (Photo Credit: AFP)

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.


  1. 11000-12000-16000 rupees as salary per month is of no use in today’s works, even in India where ladies are supposed to be taken care of by their husbands. They ho will work in such conditions

  2. Dear nurses expose every unfair related to patient’s . It’s maybe from hospital’s or doctors side . Like unwanted tests , heavy bill cost , unwanted stay in hospital. Support every nurse to without any interest. Every time work in unity. No debate on south indian nurse or north india nurse.

  3. The real problem in nursing sector in India is Nurses are not treated with respect.
    –> They made to work for peanut salary. Even most experienced nurse in metrocity wont get more than 15k.
    –> Nurses are treated as third class workers in private hospitals.
    –> No rules in working hours, some time double shifts without any extra salary.. some hospitals give a extra half day off.
    –> Some hospitals Night shifts are for 10 working days without any leave.
    –> One more simple day to day today issue is three shifts without any transportation.. so 6am shifts and second shifts leaving is a nightmare.
    –> One major head ache is that they cant leave the shift without handover which makes them to work another one hour.
    –> On top of all of this, HR of hospital to pay their part they wont even give experience certificate if you leave the job within one year. so on…

    Our Nurses in India are crying daily in their work, no one is hearing it and they are the angels who are dying daily but treat as third class workers.. So how people will be interested in doing this job, unless you get a government job your work life is only till 40 .

    Now getting a admission for B.S.C nursing is also difficult as there are less college and private college loot here too with lot of admission and monthly fees.

    all this making people to shun this line itself. whereas those who find out a job board live a most blessed life than all IT experts as they treat nurses as KEY WORKERS for society.

    • One most important.. Top branded Hospitals want their nurses look like Air hostess.. Slim , Wheaties, with good makeup with lipsticks

  4. Lot of Keralite nurses jump overseas. It is time the Indian government put a curb to it.

    • May be Indian government need to look into the nurses payscale and offer an incentive for them to stay and work in India so they can improve the quality of life for hem and their families

    • It is time you visit your doctor at the asylum a keralite nurse will give your tablets. If you are so bothered why don’t you become a nurse and stay in India. The remittances​ coming from their overseas jobs are taking care of millions back home. I am sure you would have not done an iota of work worthwhile in your life like rest of the chaddis here.

    • hahaha.. If IIT’ans can work overseas and MNC. Why not Nurses who has some dignity in overseas.

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