The Union Cabinet’s decision of opening new 157 nursing institutions has come as a shot in the arm for India’s nursing sector. However, many look at it as a countermeasure to the costly private nursing education, often questioned for its quality.

The move that will add approximately 15,700 nursing graduates every year from government-run nursing institutions is set to project India as a manpower supplier to the world in the area of nursing. The world celebrates International Nurses Day on May 12.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday had approved the establishment of 157 nursing colleges, co-located with existing medical colleges established since 2014 with an outlay of ₹1,570 crore. The decision will remove the regional imbalance in the concentration of government-run nursing institutes as Uttar Pradesh will see the maximum number of colleges (27) being set up, followed by Rajasthan (23), and Madhya Pradesh (14).

Suraj Gupta, National President, All India Registered Nurses Federation, considers this move a revolution for the nursing education sector. “This will provide better livelihood, education, and good-quality training to nursing aspirants. There has been a severe shortage of nurses across the country. Till now Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Uttarakhand had poor nursing education infrastructure, as compared to Southern states. This is a good move to fill this gap,” said Gupta.

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Currently, about 40 per cent of the existing nursing colleges are located in the Southern States. However, the issue, experts say, expands beyond regional disparity. It is estimated that about 90-95 per cent of the nursing institutes are privately run with relatively costly fees structure and poor quality of education and infrastructure.

According to Vipulsinh Chavada, President, All Gujarat Nursing Union, the fees at private nursing colleges have doubled in the past 5-7 years costing around ₹1.4 lakh per year for the graduate course. “This is hurting middle-class aspirants for nursing careers. It has become almost impossible for students belonging to lower-middle-class families to opt for nursing as a career. Gujarat is set to benefit from the Centre’s decision as more Govt colleges will open up now,” said Chavada.

Nursing manpower supplier to the world

Speaking to businessline, Suresh Sharma, Principal of Nursing College at AIIMS-Jodhpur termed the Cabinet’s decision a welcome move in the backdrop of the emerging global need for nurses. “The WHO and International Council of Nurses have repeatedly underlined the looming shortage of nurses globally. The recent data shows that about 13 million more nurses would be required by 2025.”

Where will these nurses come from? Sharma states, “There are only two countries that have capabilities to produce nurses for the globe. India and the Philippines. So this is a welcome moment for us.” The three key benefits from the decision are the availability of trained nurses for local hospitals, training nurses for the globe, and eventually benefit the Indian economy, and strengthening of the government sector is set to improve the quality of nursing education with affordability.

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This assumes significance especially when nursing as a career is being preferred by students from middle-class populations in urban and semi-urban families. Bharat Gadhavi, President, Ahmedabad Hospitals & Nursing Homes Association (AHNA) informed that the nursing sector is now providing “plenty of job opportunities. This has become an attractive profession as the salaries are also improving. A lot of nursing professionals go abroad from India. We should become the manpower supplier of nurses to the world, but only after we take care of our own needs,” he said.

However, having fixed the disparity between private and government colleges, the government’s next focus has to be on making available the adequate faculty for these new institutions. “The government must ensure that the quality of education is not diluted with quantity. The work should start on faculty development and building faculty for these institutions,” said Sharma of AIIMS-Jodhpur adding that the Centre’s plan of making Centres of Excellence in Nursing Education and Research also need to be fast-tracked to maintain the momentum.