Dearth of skilled manpower is affecting the nursing profession. Prachi Rege speaks to experts about the courses and the various new job roles a nursing graduate can work in.
When it comes to healthcare, one naturally thinks only about doctors as the professionals who will help cure or save a life. However, we tend to forget an important medical staff who supervises the patients in the absence of the doctor. Generally dressed in white, blue or pink scrubs, these personnels are called—Nurses. They assist doctors at the hospital and sometimes at a private clinic, right from the reception to the operation theatre. "Indian nurses have been working all over the world today and have the reputation of being excellent performers," says Devanand Kolothodi, chief administrative officer, DM Wayanad Institute of Medical Sciences, Wayanad, Kerala, which has just started a nursing programme.
"Nursing in India has changed. Today it is practised with more scientific knowledge and research based evidence for giving quality care to patients. Nurses are expected to be the front line care managers in any health care setting," explains Anice George, Dean, Manipal College of Nursing.
With the rise in number of hospitals in the country and the ever expanding healthcare sector, nursing is not only an essential, but also a lucrative career option at any given time. However, there seems to be a serious dearth of manpower in this sector. Mugdha Lad, head, Hinduja Hospital, Mahim says,"Currently we have 230 nurses on board. Due to long working hours and all-female staff this number is not enough. We need more." Lad further adds that stereotype attached to the profession has also led to not many people opting for it. Furthermore, men shy away from a nursing career and that leaves out more than half of the population.
Several institutes are launching innovative nursing programmes to bridge the demand and supply gap. According to Saly Suseel, deputy director nursing, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, "Nurses of the future will have to be empowered to make policy decisions that affect healthcare largely." In order to fulfill this goal, the hospital in association with the KC College of Management Studies has started a Nursing Management Programme. "Our vision is to create future nurse managers equipped with the knowledge of management principles that can be applied in smooth functioning of a department," she adds. Besides the above mentioned courses, a few other programmes include the two year diploma in Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM), three-year diploma in General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) and two year Msc in Nursing. For those wanting to study further and get into the research field can pursue a MPhil after a few years of work experience.
The downside of this profession is that its curriculum hasn't been updated since the 80s. "Instead of practical training, the focus is on theory. So the graduates barely know how to operate in an hospital environment," complains Lad, who has dealt with freshers who weren't even skilled to check blood pressure. She spends three to four months in training the nurses in basic hospital protocol which is not done by education institutes.
However, George is of the opinion that the new graduates are now prepared to practice the profession with more confidence. "They are more aware of their various independent, interdependent and dependent roles as members of the health care team," she mentions. Not agreeing with Lad, she says that unskilled manpower is a generalised statement hospitals make which is not true.
"Students are not placed in all the areas of the hospital to work as a workforce but are given all the required clinical postings and training as per the curriculum. During the final year of the BSc nursing they have to go through the integrated internship in the intensive and critical care areas to make them more skilled. This is done under supervision of post graduate nursing qualified faculty," George explains.
Given the paucity of soft skills among nurses, many hospitals conduct soft skills and telephone etiquette training sessions before employing nurses. There are short term courses organised for the nurses in critical care, neonatal and geriatric nursing. "There is a structured curriculum prepared which instills clinical preparedness in the nurses when put on the job in specialised departments," says Suseel. Taking it a notch higher, nurses are also sent for external training in oncology, hair restoration, perfusion study, sleep study, advanced cardiac life support, and international trauma life support. "A nurse is thus capable to rescue a life of a senior citizen because of her training and quick thinking," she adds. Privately run colleges have the necessary infrastructure and train with a focus on international medical standards. "The foundation of nursing education is evidence based practice and its influence on the care aspect. Also, institute like ours work to create an apptitude for research among nursing student," says Kolothodi. Research is the only concept that needs to be instilled in the nurse practitioners role in healthcare which is the next step in this profession.