A career in Nursing

Nurse helping old woman to drink water

Nurses not only have to care for their patients’ physical condition, but are often the sole source of comfort to people in times of trauma, such as after an accident. They spend more time with patients than doctors, sometimes even more than the patients’ families.

What’s this career about?

The primary role of a nurse is to provide care and medical aid to patients suffering from all sorts of physical and psychological maladies. In the hospital environment, a nurse takes the health history of the patient, gives a physical examination, keeps and maintains patient records, provides preventive care by monitoring diet and nutrition and provides symptomatic treatment as well as renders emergency care. They also assist medical specialists and help set up medical tools in operation theatres and clinical laboratories.

According to functionality, their roles can be classified as follows:

General nurses work in hospitals, nursing homes and medical establishments. Their primary job is to take care of patients, assist doctors and perform administrative duties.

Midwives take care of expecting mothers and provide assistance during childbirth.

Health workers are nurses who provide medical aid to people living in the rural areas.

There is immense physical and emotional strain associated with being a nurse, as well as many rewards. They get the satisfaction of alleviating pain and suffering and seeing people get hale and hearty again. Nurses usually have to work in shifts, including nights and weekends. Stressful work conditions can have an adverse effect on their psyche and health. The role played by these angels of mercy often goes unrewarded and unnoticed.

There are many areas of specialist nursing practice such as mental health nursing, midwifery, nursing children, aged care, cancer nursing, intensive care, operating theatre, community health, management, education and workplace health and safety. Other opportunities for qualified nurses lie in teaching, administration and research jobs. An interesting aspect of this profession is that a huge majority of nurses are women. However, of late, men are also showing an interest in the profession.

How do I get there?

A degree/diploma from a nursing school is the minimum requirement to enter this career. There are three kinds of programmes available:

CourseEligibilityDuration
B.Sc. Nursing10+2 with Biology, Physics and Chemistry4 years
General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM)10+2 with Science3½ years
Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM)Class 1018 months

Admission to B.Sc. (Nursing) is on the basis of performance in the entrance examination conducted by various colleges. This four-year course imparts in-depth knowledge of various theoretical and practical aspects of nursing. The course includes an internship in which students work in various departments of the hospital, from the general ward to the intensive care units, taking care of patients who may be in a very serious condition.

While GNM course helps in preparing general nurses to hold first-level positions in the hospitals, ANM course teaches to take care of health-related needs of the people living in the rural areas especially children, mothers and old persons. Nurses with GNM can do B.Sc. Nursing condensed course in two years.

A large number of institutions in India offer certificate, graduate and post-graduate courses in nursing, as well as midwifery courses. For those who wish to pursue further studies in Nursing Care, some institutions also provide a two-year M.Sc. programme in Nursing.

The type of education you have will affect your future opportunities. For most supervisory and administrative positions, a four-year degree along with experience is required. A Master’s level training is necessary for some specialties such as nurse anesthetist and intensive care nurse.

Do you have these key skills?

  • An inherent desire to take care of the ill.
  • Effective verbal and written communication skills.
  • Tolerance, patience and tact in dealing with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures.
  • Problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.
  • Mentally and physically fit, ability to work for long hours.
  • Ability to empathise rather than sympathise with the patient.
  • Flexibility, humour and enthusiasm.

Institutes

College of Nursing, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (aiims.edu/en.html)
College of Nursing, CMC, Ludhiana (cmcludhiana.in/college-of-nursing)
College of Nursing, PGI, Chandigarh (pgimer.edu.in)
College of Nursing, Christian Medical College, Vellore (concmc.org)
College of Nursing, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal (manipal.edu)
National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences, Bangalore (nimhans.ac.in)
Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College of Nursing, Katraj-Dhankawadi, Pune (conpune.bharatividyapeeth.edu)
Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi (ignou.ac.in)
Rani Mayyammai College of Nursing Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar (annamalaiuniversity.ac.in)
NTR University of Health Sciences, College of Nursing, Hyderabad (ntruhs.ap.nic.in/index.html)
The Leelabai Thackersey College of Nursing, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai (sndt.ac.in/index.php/ltnursing)

Pay package

In hospitals, polyclinics and nursing homes, starting salary is in the range of Rs 10,000 to 17,000. Mid-level positions can fetch a salary anywhere between Rs 18,000 to 35,000. Highly-experienced nurses can even get an income of Rs 50,000 to 75,000 per month.

Employment profile

Nurses are employed in hospitals, both private and government run, nursing homes, clinics, schools, orphanages, old age homes or in institutions caring for the mentally or physically handicapped. Those with a post-graduate degree in Nursing are eligible to teach in training institutions or go in for research work.

There is a critical need for trained, skilled and dedicated nurses and the demand is worldwide. More and more hospitals, nursing homes and medical establishments are coming up. There is greater emphasis on rehabilitation and the long-term care needs of rapidly-aging population. Also new technology allows more patients to receive complex ambulatory care in hospitals, thus nurses will have even greater job opportunities in these settings.

Dr Vibha Gupta
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Dr Vibha Gupta

Dr Vibha Gupta is a Ph.D. in Mathematics from IIT Roorkee. A feature writer, her book Careers: A Pathfinder and articles in various publications attempt to guide students in choosing a career according to their natural strengths, talents and skills.