In ancient India, the medical care was provided only by doctors and physicians. Though Sushruta, the father of medicine had mentioned about nursing while describing few essential qualities of nurses, there has been no mention about female nurses in India till the Mughal period. Nursing in India started and developed only after the invasion by the British. The first nursing training school was sanctioned by the British government during 1854 in Madras in the lying-in hospitals.
Advancements in recent times
In the past, the nursing profession was an occupation for Hindu windows and/or deserted women as a self-supporting measure. Women from the Christian community undertaking the nursing profession were more in number than the women from the other communities, since, as a profession, nursing did not have a proper status in the eyes of society.
After the establishment of the INC (Indian Nurses Council), most of the states in India established their State Nursing Councils (SNC). The SNCs were responsible for maintaining the standard and uniformity in nursing.
The development of various committees such as Bhore Committee (1943), Shetty Committee (1954), Mudaliar Committee (1959-61), Kartar Singh Committee (1973), Srivastava Committee (1974), High Power Committee (1987) alongside five year plans have brought about a transition in the status of nursing and midwifery. The recommendations made were in relation to staffing in hospital nursing service, public health settings, and schools/colleges, working and living conditions, infrastructure and equipment, regulations, and intensification of training programmes to meet the staff shortage.
The roles of nurses are evolving and changing. Nurses can perform health assessment, actively support patients and families in all settings, create innovative models of care, and enhance work processes to raise quality, lower cost and improve access for our society. Nurses can undertake research to find evidence to support new nursing interventions. Nurses can contribute towards strengthening systems to work efficiently in interdisciplinary teams. They can effectively participate, and influence policies related to nursing at local, state and national levels.
However, the nursing and midwifery profession is not honoured as an autonomous body in spite of the fact that they are fully developed, qualitatively and quantitatively. The services rendered by them to ailing patients do not receive proper recognition from other health professionals in the medical field and even by society at large. They are not accepted as leaders or administrators in their own fields without assigning any justifiable reason for such lack of recognition for the nursing profession.
In the years to come, many changes are expected even in the National Health Policy regarding funding, education, specialization, creation of a permanent nursing cadre, better salary structure etc. With respect to women’s empowerment, the nurses are already empowered, and they only need the freedom to use their powers. There is a great need for the society to recognize the rights and responsibilities of nurses and midwives and therefore they should insist on having only qualified nurses wherever they get admitted for medical treatment.
It is necessary that management of government and public sector hospitals should think on the lines of administrators of corporate hospitals and improve working and image of health services, including efficient patient care rendered in the public hospitals.