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
What do they do?
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”.
Jagannathan earned 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.
- 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
Typical day in the life of a Nurse
Depending on day or night shifts, the job duties of a Registered Nurse can include:
- Providing direct care to patients.
- Discussing treatment options with patients.
- Asking patients about their medical history and current symptoms to help determine any underlying issues.
- Checking patients’ vital signs.
- Administering IVs.
- Administering medication.
- Supervising the work of Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses.