Nursing & midwifery associations highlight urgent need for policy support to drive robust health workforce in India

At a recent national meeting on the first-year completion of the #NurseMidwife4Change campaign, the campaign partners, Indian Nursing Council (INC), All India Government Nurses Federation (AIGNF), The Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI), Society of Midwives-India (SOMI) and Jhpiego, came together to discuss the issues affecting the nurse and midwifery profession and the progress made so far.

The experts recognized the nurses’ and midwives’ role and contribution to India’s health care system. The esteemed participants deliberated the need to further uplift the status of nurses and strengthen the cadre of Nurse midwives in India.

The talks highlighted some of these vital considerations, investment in education, staffing of nurse midwives, nursing leadership, nurse-patient ratio, workload, long working hours, double shifts, and others.

The experts also discussed the need to prioritize investments to further strengthen this cadre and position nurse midwives as leaders, educators, and collaborators. The new guidelines by the government of India are being seen as a move in the positive direction by nursing organisations.

Today, India stands at 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population, as opposed to the World Health Organization (WHO) norm of 3 nurses per 1,000. The poor nurse-patient ratio is leading to increased workload, long working hours, double shifts and others leading to low quality of treatment. This issue must be resolved to build a robust health workforce in the country. Presently, policy priorities targeted at strengthening the nursing sector in India have mainly focused on increasing the number of nurses in the health care system.

To set the tone for systemic policy reforms, the panelists discussed the policy priorities toward building a health workforce for the future aimed at achieving universal health coverage. A much-needed representation of the nursing workforce in leadership roles is required across India, which also includes setting up nursing directorates across all states to ensure better governance and policymaking. This will help in the evolution of the nursing workforce as an independent professional body and build a quality workforce of nurse professionals. The WHO’s Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025 lays down policy priorities that can enable countries to ensure that their midwives and nurses optimally contribute to achieving universal health coverage and other health-related goals.

T. Dileep Kumar, President- Indian Nursing Council, said: “Nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare industry, and their importance cannot be undermined. Over the last two decades, India has made significant progress in plugging the gaps in overall availability of nurses. Due to several concrete efforts by the Government of India, the country witnessed a doubling of nursing workforce – from 0.8 nurses per 1000 population in 2000 to 1.7 in 2020. However, this number is still less than the WHO norm of 3 nurses per 1000 population, creating a need for systemic reforms. Through #NurseMidwife4Change, we have been able to initiate a conversation around the issues faced by our nurses and midwives and are hopeful of a measurable impact in the coming months.”

Prof (Dr) Roy K George, President-Trained Nurses Association of India, said” “The #NurseMidwife4Change campaign has been successful in mobilizing voices to support and uplift the nursing profession. As representatives of different nursing bodies, we are grateful to the Government for introducing draft guidelines to improve the working conditions of nurses and acknowledging their hard work in creating a Healthy India. We are committed to supporting government’s efforts in this direction.”

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