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Nurses Flock Overseas: India Struggles with an Alarming Healthcare Workforce Shortage

New Delhi: Influx of Indian Nurses Abroad Leaves Nation Grappling with Unprecedented Healthcare Workforce Deficit, Reveals FICCI Report: ‘The 2047 Agenda’ sheds light on India’s severe nursing shortage and its underlying causes.

The report underscores India’s current struggle with the most substantial nursing staff deficit in its history. A substantial number of Indian nurses are departing for overseas opportunities due to inadequate compensation, recognition, and benefits within the country. In contrast, the global healthcare landscape is witnessing a post-pandemic resurgence, with nations worldwide bolstering their healthcare systems and actively extending offers to attract nursing talent.

Nursing Organisations Highlight Grievances: Long Hours and Low Salaries Deter Indian nurses from staying.

Indian nurses have been vocal about the challenges they face even within central government hospitals in the country, citing gruelling working hours and inadequate remuneration as factors that make the nursing profession unappealing. Additionally, they lament the limited opportunities for career advancement within the field, further fueling the exodus of Indian nursing talent seeking opportunities abroad.

High Demand for Indian Nurses Abroad

The report underscores the substantial demand for well-trained Indian nurses in foreign countries, including Ireland, Malta, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, the UK (specifically Wales), and Belgium. Notably, Philippine nurses are in the highest demand globally. This demand extends to various specialised fields such as ambulance services, critical care, mental health, and geriatric care. Anoop KA, Managing Director of Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC, Kerala), also points out that medical technicians are sought after abroad.

In the year 2019–20, ODEPC facilitated the overseas recruitment of only 300 nurses. However, between August 2020 and February 2021, they sent 420 nurses to countries like the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UK, indicating a persistently high demand.

Mass Migration of Nurses Worldwide

Simultaneously, tens of thousands of Indian nurses have pursued opportunities in healthcare institutions worldwide, driven by the promise of better prospects.

The nursing landscape in India

According to the Nursing Council report of 2021, India boasts 5,162 nursing institutes, with a significant 87% of them privately managed and the remaining 13% under government administration. Annually, the country produces 1,92,679 nurses, including 1,33,299 graduate nurses (B.Sc., Post Basic B.Sc.) and 17,141 postgraduate nurses (M.S.), alongside those who complete diploma courses in Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery (ANM) and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM). Furthermore, there are also post-basic M.Sc. graduates in the field.

In India, over 60% of doctors and 50% of nurses and midwives are employed in the private sector. Despite two-thirds of the population residing in rural areas, only one-third of healthcare workers are available in these regions, as per the report’s findings.

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