Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A Vision for Future Healthcare
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of othersMahatma Gandhi
International Nurses Day is celebrated every year from 1974 on May 12, an initiative of The International Council of Nurses (ICN). The day was chosen to commemorate the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, “The Lady with the Lamp”, and the founder of modern nursing.
Apart from being a nurse, Nightingale was a social reformer and a statistician. During the Crimean War, her contributions as a nurse were instrumental in organising care for wounded soldiers at Constantinople. Due to her efforts, nursing got a favourable reputation, and she became an icon of Victorian culture. “Florence Nightingale Medal”, the highest international recognition for nurses, is named in her honour and is given annually.
This COVID pandemic has brought to the fore the critical role of the nurses in providing health care. It has exposed the weaknesses in our health systems and the enormous pressure on nurses and health workers. At the end of 2020, it is estimated that COVID infected more than 1.6 million health workers in 34 countries. The lessons learnt in handling the Pandemic would pave the way for arriving at robust healthcare mechanisms.
Nursing is a profession that requires both patience and knowledge. Putting their lives at risk and with determination for the sake of saving lives, they perform their duties. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system and constitute more than half of the health workers. Despite the importance of the health infrastructure, there is a shortage of nurses worldwide. 5.9 million more nurses still needed, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Nurses are two-thirds of the health workforce in India. India has 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population, 43% less than the WHO norm of 3 per 1,000. The worrying factor is that the availability of nurses is not uniform across India. The lowest density of nurses is in the states like Bihar, UP and Jharkhand. Among the highest are in Kerala and capital cities. Alarmingly 73 districts had no nurses with a medical qualification. We have travelled a long distance from what it used to be at the time of independence (7000 nurses for the population of 400 million). Another worrying factor in the health care sector that is not so satisfying is the Physician Nurse ratio. Even though there are 948 Nursing colleges in India offering 1542 courses, the country still needs more. FICCI report estimates that India needs 2.4 million nurses to meet the growing demand. Lucrative options available in other countries depleting the nursing workforce. The efficiency and dependency with which Indian nurses discharge their duties make them one of the world’s most sorted.
The roles of nurses are evolving and changing. Nurses can perform health assessment, actively support patients and families in all settings, create innovative models of care, and enhance work processes to raise quality, lower cost and improve access for our society.
Another factor emerging in our society is the increased number of older people. More and more younger people migrate to distant places searching for greener pastures and changing lifestyles and priorities, making the aged population vulnerable. Home care is increasingly becoming a domain where governments must pay attention and adding a different dimension to health care. Nurses are going to play a crucial role in meeting this growing demand. When you are not well and needs health care, it is the nurse who attends to you. Patients call them “sister”. These are all the people with lamps in their hands, administering hope and spreading the light of hope. Rarely you may remember these selfless health care professionals. For a patient, not being well is for a limited time of suffering to endure. But people in the nursing profession, day in and day out, attend to those who are not well. The world cannot achieve universal health coverage or Sustainable Development Goals without them.
Next time you come across a nurse, greet them, thank them and be grateful, as they are on the job of helping fellow human beings to recover from their illnesses.