Nursing personnel play an important role in providing seamless and efficient health care services in hospitals and nursing homes. As per a February 2006 study by Sreelekha Nair and Madelaine Healey, it is indicated that the Indian society views nursing as a “menial, morally dubious, and polluting work.”
This is true to a great extent as there is very little transparency about the intricacies of their job routine, due to which people do not appreciate the extent of professional services they render to doctors and the health care system in India. At the state level, every state has its own organization called the State Nursing Council that pertains to the registration of nurses upon completion of training. On completing training, a nurse must register name and details with the State Nursing Council to indicate status as a registered nurse. However, the Indian Nursing Council is the main statutory body that has been constituted under the Indian Nursing Council Act, 1947, that is responsible for regulating and maintaining a uniform standard of training and education for nurses and midwives.
Legal Rights: Problems Faced by Nursing Staff in India
In India, nurses are not given their due recognition and are often deprived of their legal rights at the workplace and in the society. A news bulletin in May 2010 issued by the World Health Organization, it was stated that nurse shortages are acute in India. An official of the Ministry of Health and director of the Indian Nursing Council had stated in the bulletin that 2.4 million nurses will be required by 2012 to ensure the nurse-patient ratio of one nurse per 500 patients.
Some main problems suffered by nurses in India include:
- difficult working conditions
- low salary
- slow promotion opportunities
- lack of job security and related benefits
- increased risk of sexual harassment at the workplace
Legal Rights: Threat of Sexual Harassment by Doctors, Ward Boys and Others
A February 2006 study by Sreelekha Nair and Madelaine Healey on “A Profession on the Margins: Status Issues in Indian Nursing” provides shocking information on the status of nurses in India. The study indicates that sexual harassment is an unavoidable experience for nurses. The study states that this happens to nurses not only at the hands of superiors and doctors but by ward boys, relatives of patients and other subordinate male workers in the health care system. The study states that nurses on night shifts are most vulnerable to such threats.
Most of these issues are either ignored, addressed vaguely or remain unaddressed totally by the regulatory authorities in India.
In July 2010, for example, the state government of Arunachal Pradesh assured nurses who had put forth their demands through the state unit of the Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI). The assurance was that their demands and grievances would be addressed.
At a six day, state level in-service short training on “Nursing trend and Nursing Management,” the guest of honor was Anupama Singh, the first lady of the state. She began her address by stating that nursing is a noble profession that requires nurses to be not only devoted to their professional duties but to be good and compassionate human beings. She emphasized on the in-service training for nurses to update their knowledge and skills to cope up with leaps taken by modern medical science and nursing practices. Whether actual initiatives have been rolled out for the benefit of the nursing community is not clear yet. Also, nothing is mentioned about the actual problems that nurses face at the workplace.
Once again, reverting to the abovementioned study, it indicates that the TNAI has been greatly criticized for not contributing significantly to improve the status of nurses in India as their focus is reportedly to fortify lobbying in political circles. A more popular organization is the Delhi Nurses Union, which has used collective bargaining techniques to assert legal rights and push strongly for several initiatives including changing the short nursing uniforms to salwar kameez and saree.
With nurses putting forth their collective demands and asserting their legal rights, the Cabinet approved of setting up 260 government nursing schools at district level to address the problem of shortage of nurses. Budgetary allocation for nursing education has witnessed a significant increase as well.