2020 was designated as Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by World Health Organization in recognition of the contribution they make and the risks associated with nursing shortages. On the occasion of International Nurses Day on May 12, Dr. T Dileep Kumar, president of Indian Nursing Council, tells Anuradha Mascarenhas that a Nurse Registration Tracking System (NRTS) has been launched for the first time. Excerpts from an interview:
What is the aim of the Nurse Registration Tracking System?
A massive exercise is underway to identify the exact number of nurses in the country. An agency has been appointed to visit each government and private hospital and collect authentic information for the same. The aim is towards a simplified registration system that will empower nurses with a National Unique Identity Number (NUID). It will also involve renewal of licence once in five years with 150 hours of Continuing Nursing Education (CNE). Nurses travel across states for various employment opportunities. For instance, a nurse working in Maharashtra, who comes to Delhi, faces the challenge of acquiring reciprocal registration and finds it difficult to get a job in the private sector. With this electronic verification, the nurse’s name will be deleted from Maharashtra and entered into Delhi Nursing Council.
How many nurses are there in the country?
There are 20 lakh nurses, who have been registered to date. However, we want the exact number and, hence, this is the first regulatory body to start a live registration system. Some nurses may have died, some may have gone abroad and, so, we want to arrive at the exact number of how many are active. The NRTS exercise is underway for two years now and 10 lakh nurses have been covered so far. We have to ascertain numbers as to how many have gone abroad and, with the NRTS, we can track them.
Nurses are facing a number of challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please comment on their training needs.
There are a large number of nurses working during this pandemic and, for the first time, the public has realised the significant role that they play. I have been working as a nursing adviser for several decades to the government. While an approximate more than 100 nurses have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Centre has taken positive steps in ensuring health insurance for them and bringing the ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act to protect frontline workers. While nurses were trained on various aspects of Covid-19, another effort was taken up along with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to build the capacity of nurses and teachers/students of nursing colleges on dealing with pregnant and lactating women in the wake of Covid-19 and with survivors of gender-based violence.
The first-ever State of the World’s Nursing Report by WHO estimated a shortage of over 5.7 million nurses worldwide. How is the Centre planning to address this issue?
Nursing is the largest occupational group in the health sector accounting for approximately 59 per cent of the health professionals. According to the report, the focus has to be on investing in nurses’ education and jobs. In India, there are an estimated 1,800 BSc nursing colleges, 3,000 diploma courses in general nursing schools, 700 postgraduate nursing institutions and 1,600 ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery) schools. If the optimum nurse ratio is properly implemented, then there is one nurse for four patients in special wards and one nurse for six in general wards. The National Health Policy, 2017, has focused on single entry into nursing courses and recommended upgrading diploma schools into nursing colleges. A specialisation programme in critical care nursing practitioner also has been started across 20 institutions. The focus is on nurses playing an advanced role in ICU (intensive care unit) towards patient care management.