Nurses are backbone of a hospital, India is grappling with shortage

nurse examines a newborn
nurse examines a newborn

India has a crippling shortage of nurses, further complicated by limited teaching facilities and brain drain

Captain Usha Banerjee
Captain Usha Banerjee

The history of nursing is an epic involving service and sacrifice, trials and triumphs, achievements, ambitions and aspirations.

The proud legacy has continued as nurses across the world broke ground and the proverbial glass ceiling redefining the design, definition and delivery of healthcare. The Indian reality is less rosy.

In India there is a crippling shortage of nurses.  Currently, India has only 1.7 nurses available per thousand population against WHO recommendation of 2.5 nurses per thousand population. In other words the country is short of 2.5 million nurses. The situation is complicated by declining number of student enrolments and poor educational facilities. This despite the fact that India churns out the highest number of trained nurses in the world and is also amongst top 5 exporters of nurses.

This is extremely disconcerting. Nursing is not just the backbone of a hospital but the tiara that adorns the head. An embodiment of pride and prestige, a perfect combination of clinical acumen and emotional intelligence. Nurses at Apollo are the torchbearers, the forerunners, the crusaders and the creators of changes. The Tender Loving Care (TLC) they deliver is the magic that inspires hope, warmth and a sense of ease in the patients.

We have a very complex clinical milieu with the nurse being in the center of this maze replete with multiple lines of control and responsibility and limited autonomy and authority

Nurses today are an embodiment of humanity as they create bridges that cut across the boundaries created by nations, culture, race, religion, sex, status etc. Nurses celebrate the miracle of birth and stand in to support death with dignity…The array of emotions nurses witness and manage is phenomenally diverse and the cultural and emotional sensitivities and sensibilities of a nurse are what sets her apart from everyone else.

Healthcare today is at a tipping point. We are witnessing a revolution with increased disease burden, technology taking centre stage, insurance boom, growing consumerism, increased patient literacy, proliferation of public private partnership, corporatization of healthcare, media attention, increasing litigation, a present and impending manpower crisis and the struggles of delivering safe healthcare in this continuously evolving ecosystem. We the nurses continue our commitment to being on the forefront of the changing healthcare landscape.

We have a very complex clinical milieu with the nurse being in the center of this maze replete with multiple lines of control and responsibility and limited autonomy and authority.

Despite all the challenges that the current nursing scenario or the future has in store we need to focus on creating transformational leadership at all levels of Nursing by maximizing the leadership capacity of senior nursing executives as well as bedside nurses. We need to prepare for all eventualities and I know for a fact that the only way forward is setting up successors for success.

The need of the hour is to start a “stop doing” list to unplug extraneous junk from the kitty of a nurse to give them more time for patient engagement. To scale up to the next level of integration into the business model, nurses also need to become managers and administrators by developing a keen sense of finance and gain an insight into our economic engine. Leveraging technology to support the nurses for the requisite clinical support and inventory backup needs to be a constant endeavour.

Nursing has taken the spirit of leadership well beyond business metrics.  We as Nurses wish to reiterate that we are for more than just profits. Profits – as important as it is – is not why we exist – we exist for more fundamental reasons… we are in the profession of preserving & improving human life. All our actions must be measured by our efforts & success in achieving this goal.

Nurses need to know how they can be part of the solution to achieve better patient outcomes and also to do more to prevent disease; provide chronic care management to an aging, sicker, and more diverse population; and offer end-of-life care that emphasizes comfort and compassion.

We have done a lot and have travelled far in a short decade, however a lot more needs to be done. We need to leapfrog, otherwise we will be left redundant and outdated. The growing attrition and reduced enrolment rates will cripple healthcare system and urgent strategies need to be deployed NOW. All of us need to do our best to attract young students into the profession and retain them by creating a healthy and nurturing milieu where they have abundant opportunities to learn and grow. Let’s cultivate good governance backed by exemplary leadership.

On this International Nurses Day the theme being “Nurses A Voice to Lead – Health is a Human right” there is even more urgency to give nursing recognition which it richly deserves. This will indeed be a tribute to Florence Nightingale the founder of modern nursing whose birthday we celebrate as International Nurses Day.


  1. Thank you for sending out a message that is need of the hour. Capt.Usha, you have thrown light on almost all aspects related to the health care system concerning nursing, in-terms of their selfless contribution, optimizing the nursing hours, demand, gaps, the expected governance etc.
    you are truly an inspiration.

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