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Vandana  Datt  Anand

Great personalities like Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa bring to mind the noble profession of  Nursing. Nursing  is the art , the skill of caring for sick people using the science of health care. It is a vital component of medical care. The largest group of workers in the health sector are those in the nursing occupation working as nurses or nursing assistants.

Organised training for nursing  is said to have originated in Germany in the first half of  the nineteenth century and was developed in Britain by the efforts of Florence  Nightingale. During the Crimean  War she  established  standards of  scientific and humanitarian care in military hospitals.

In India in third century BC King Ashoka set some high standards and strict guidelines for  hospitals.  Only male nurses were allowed as women were considered weak and not pure enough for the work. Male  nurses  received  training  to be skilled in many aspects such as cooking, bathing, caring for patients,

massage, physical therapy and bed making skills. But now, the field is open for women also and the majority of them are now women. According to statistics, Kerela and Rajasthan churn out the largest number of nurses at present. The space  occupied by male nurses is still  limited to space that require least interaction with patients such as I C U.

Why  Nursing?

According to a recently published  report, 267 nursing schools are to be opened  to reduce the shortage  of five lakh nurses in India. There is a shortage of over one lakh ANMs (Auxillary  Nurse  Midwife) and  four lakh GNMs (General Nurse Midwife) in the country .With a massive growth in healthcare industry, which is expected to grow on a regular basis there is  a huge demand for health care professionals, nurses being the chief among them.

What is nursing?

A nurse has a broad range of duties and responsibilities  . Nursing covers a range of jobs which vary widely in terms of levels of functions, of responsibility, professional qualifications required, environment worked in.Thus  people with different aims ,and abilities  can find nursing a worthwhile option.

Nurses work under  the direct supervision of nursing departments and in collaboration with physicians. Two thirds of all nurses work in hospitals , where they may be assigned to general,  operation room or maternity room duty. They may  also work in caring for sick children or be assigned to other hospital duties, such as emergency rooms, intensive care units or outpatients clinics. Nurses  find  work in hospitals, physicians consulting rooms, in private homes, in schools and industries also.

Work of general duty nurse involves working with other members of healthcare team to assess  the condition of the patient, and to develop and implement a plan for treatment .A large  number of duties ranging from tasks such as taking patient’s temperatures, pulse, blood pressure, administering medication and injections , recording symptoms and progress of patients, changing dressings ,assisting patients in personal care, conferring with members of medical staff, helping prepare a patient for surgery, and completing a number of tasks that require skill and understanding of patients’ needs.

Surgical nurses work in operation theatre , prepare it for surgeries by sterilising instruments. Assisting surgeons during  operations  and coordinating patient flow is part of their routine.. Private  nurses  may get employed by the family of the patient. Their service is designed for individual care of one person and is carried out in consultation with a patient’s physician.

Midwifery is a unique combination of applying complex practical high tech, skills, parentcraft and counselling. Midwives traditionally look after mother and child right from conception to a few weeks  after  birth. They are trained to provide ante natal and post natal  advice, support and instruction and take full responsibility during birth in straight forward cases and call a doctor in case of complication which they are trained to spot at an early stage . Often midwifery is included in nursing curriculum.

Preferred Traits:

It is the nurse who is  in contact with the patients most of the time. Hence a desired trait in a nurse is helpfulness  and also a degree of mental strength to deal with seriously ill. Common sense, practical bent of mind, calm, sympathetic, with an interest in medicine, sensitivity with a certain amount of toughness so as not to get involved  emotionally, organising ability ,power of observation, ability to take responsibility and at the same time be able to follow instructions, and above all good health are some of the other major personality attributes a nurse will require at work.


An education in nursing is a blend of both theory and practical hands on training.

Nursing training is at different levels having varying eligibility criteria.

1) Just After Class  X :

a. 18 Month Auxiliary Nurse Midwife/ Multi Purpose Health Worker: This course is conducted by various hospitals all over the country .Admission at this stage is normally on basis of  merit of Class Xth result.

2) After  Class XII :

a. 3-Year Diploma Course in General Nursing: This course is open to students who have completed Class  XII or equivalent. Most nursing/ medical colleges prefer students who studied science at plus two level, however a few colleges/ training institutes are also open to non-science students. It is important to have an aptitude for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology group of subjects. Some states give merit based admission, others conduct an entrance exam mostly objective type in English and General Science.

b. 4-Year  B.Sc, Nursing: This course is for those who have studied Science (P C B combination) at plus two level except for may be a few exceptions. Admission is based on entrance  exam. Usually, some states may accept  marks  of class XII  as admission criteria.

c. 2-Year B.Sc. Nursing Post Basic/ Certificate course: This is offered to those who have completed plus two or equivalent in science with work experience ( 3-5 years) after a General Nursing Midwife training.

3) Higher Studies: For those who would like to rise further in the profession with the option of teaching assignments, then  2-Year Master’s Degree in Nursing is also available in some colleges.

4) Specialisations Specialist courses are also available either as part of Master’s degree or a Post  -Diploma course in fields such as-Medical Surgical Nursing, Paediatric,, Psychiatric, Obstetrics and Gynaecological, Community Health, and Rehabilitation Techniques.

Training Institutes:

Training is imparted in colleges of nursing  attached to medical colleges  in various states. Majority of nursing college admissions  are for domiciles of the respective states but there are a number of  prestigious colleges which admit students  through a national level entrance exam. Most nursing colleges offer seats to only women but the field is open to men too especially in states of Rajasthan  and Kerela.

National  Level Admissions

These are available at the following Institutions:

All India Institute  of Medical Sciences, College of Nursing  New Delhi; Rajkumari  Amrit  Kaur College of Nursing New Delhi; Christian Medical College  Ludhiana; PGI  Chandigarh; SMS  Medical  College  Jaipur; Jamia Hamdard, Faculty  of Nursing New Delhi; AFMC College of Nursing etc.

Prospects/ Remuneration

As the volume of medical care needs goes up, demand for nurses is going to run into a few lakhs in the very near future. Demand for nurses is very high world over.  In the Western world, nursing is highly regarded and extremely well paying. In the Government sector too, nursing pay scales are very respectable. Private Nurses quote by the hour rates which are quite high.

Nursing is a profession in which the threat of unemployment  is very rare.  Home care and community health are areas to look forward to in the future for growth.


(The author is a Career Counsellor based in New Delhi.  e-mail :