Need to empower nurses to create quality healthcare

There are several daunting challenges faced by nurses at the workplace which leave them less efficient in rendering quality care to patients, thereby hoisting an unhealthy reputation to that particular healthcare setting.

(Representational Image: Unsplash)


International Nurses Day is observed to honour nurses every year on May 12 which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. The celebration of International Nurses Day started in 1965 by the International Council of Nurses (ICN). This day is the birth anniversary of famous Florence nightingale who was an English nurse, social reformer and statistician. During the Crimean war, she gained fame while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses, being the pillar of modern nursing. She brought a reputation for nursing and became an icon in Victorian culture. This day was initially proposed by Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S department of Health, Education and Welfare, but it was not approved. Finally, after 20 years, may 12 was chosen as the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. Since then the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has been producing and distributing resources and evidence on international Nurses Day. The theme of this year’s International Nurses Day is“Nurses: a Voice to Lead-A vision for future Healthcare”.

Nurses are essential caretakers for a prosperous society. Like doctors and other healthcare workers, nurses are at the forefront of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. During this pandemic, their extraordinary contribution has proved to inspire their dedication and hard work towards nursing.  Nurses have been described as“Sheet –Anchor”in the healthcare system that aims to provide primary healthcare to all. Nursing is a distinctive profession which is the cusp of the Arts and Science. Nurses and midwives constitute nearly half the health workforce population around the world. In India nurses make two-third of the health workforce. Nurses despite being a critical link between the healthcare sector and patients are exploited, treated with lack of respect and dignity at the workplace. There is a state of paradox in the health care industry that on one end there is great demand for health professionals while on the other end it is evident that the nurses are not paid well.

Currently in India the Physician-Nurses ratio is not satisfactory. The country needs 2.4 million nurses to meet the growing demands as reported by HLEG (High Level Expert Group). Nursing binds human society with a bond of care and affection. Nursing is a calling to care, which offers an oasis of poignant stories and pool of challenges.

The scope of nursing practices has expanded and extended to different settings other than hospitals only. Nurses deal with the most precious thing in this world—the human life.Nurses are often the lynchpin component across a wide continuum of care. A nurse’s professional skills and training contribute significantly to successful patient outcomes in a variety of care settings- from acute and tertiary care to prevention and wellness programs. Their smiling face and compassionate touch and care provide great satisfaction to the patient.

Despite urbanization and globalization, healthcare system in the country continues to face formidable challenges. The healthcare system has become increasingly detached from the curative aspect and more focusing on the satisfaction of material needs and enlarging the profit-earning aspects. This has led to unaffordability of curative care to many common people due to the present framework of the health care system in the country. Consequently, the healthcare system is being plagued with various problems. The solution is to delve deeper into the roots of the problems and explore possible solutions to curb them.

Nurses play an integral role in the healthcare industry, providing care to the patients and carrying out leadership roles in hospitals, health systems and other organizations. Although the nursing profession can be rewarding, it is equally challenging and it entails a huge level of dedication and commitment. Nurses need to be focused on not only the patient needs but also on management of the system of care. This often creates unfortunate hassles irrespective of how hard the nurses’ work towards patient care. This entails a lot of managerial skills. Reduced workforce and lack of quality care leads to overburdened workforce which further leads to higher morbidity and mortality. It is of paramount importance that all people everywhere should have access to skilled, motivated and supportive nursing care within a robust healthcare system.

The importance of nurses in healthcare should be underlined for attempting to create better quality care for all. However there are certain challenges that nurses in the present healthcare system face. These challenges arise due to issues at the organizational, state and national levels. It is of utmost importance to first recognize and understand each and every possible challenge faced by nurses in order to deal with them efficiently—not just recognize and understand them but also find solutions to mitigate them.  

In India, the healthcare system is undergoing a radical change and there are unmet health targets. This is due to the change in demographic advancement in medical technology, profit-earning mentality, immigration, task shifting, education-service gap and economic recession, to list a few. Nurses are subservient to the medical fraternity even though long back it has been developed as a profession (WHO). Nurses facilitate cooperation from other healthcare providers, e.g doctors. Paramedical staff and other ancillary staff.

There are several daunting challenges faced by nurses at the workplace which leave them less efficient in rendering quality care to patients, thereby hoisting an unhealthy reputation to that particular healthcare setting. Nevertheless these challenges are arguably the primary motivators for nurses to leave their profession, fewer students opting for the nursing profession thereby contributing to staff shortage. They move to other countries as remuneration and working conditions and respect is better there.

Challenges faced by nurses at the workplace are: Workplace mental violence; shortage of staff; workplace health hazards; long working hours; lack of synchronicity; lack of recognition; non-nursing roles etc. All the listed challenges are somehow interlinked and independent. It is necessary for us to look deep within these problems and to reach the core of these challenges in order to find solutions for the same.

Some of the possible tips are: Positive practice environment; availability and adequacy of sample of equipment; positive teamwork;  prepared and well planned policy for recruitment; closing education –service gap; work balance; evidence based practice etc. Patients and the public have the right to the highest performance from the health care professionals and this can be achieved in a workplace that enables and sustains a motivated and well-prepared workforce.

Catering to the needs of nurses and combating their challenges can make nurses empowered, encouraged and affirmed to continue doing what they do best without any barriers.

(The views expressed are the writer's own)

First Published:May 14, 2021, 9:44 p.m.

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