Initially, there were no male nurses in our country. I was the first male nurse in Delhi and have been in this profession since 1995. Even after working for more than two decades, I have not got a single promotion.
We have so many problems. For one, there is a shortage of nursing staff according to government norms. Because of this, the sometimes patients do not receive proper care.
Also, the nursing staff are overworked. Big hospitals like Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital assign one bed to four patients. So, the nurses are handling four times as many patients as they should! This makes it problematic to provide due attention and care.
Often, patients cannot be given their medicine on time due to the rush and crowd. For instance, one ward can have 100 patients and time for their medicine is 2 pm. How can one nurse provide medicine to all the patients at the same time? It’s not like the nurses can start giving the medicines from 1 pm, because giving medicine before the prescribed time would be incorrect. So, delivering all these facilities timely requires more staff. The shortage affects the patients by hampering systematic functioning.
Not all the hospitals have proper fans, ACs or coolers for the nurses. Someone has been designated as the nursing officer, but even the basic facilities are not being provided. During summer, it is tough to work without a cooler or fan. Also, availability of drinking water is another issue. In some places, clean, purified drinking water is not available. In others, there’s no water to drink at times. The nurses face such problems mostly in small hospitals, and not in big or reputed ones.
We seldom get any breaks for lunch or tea or dinner. All other hospital staff can go and have their meals from the canteen, but the nurses cannot do that. They are supposed to be available around the clock at a patient’s disposal. Every hospital should have the facility to build such a setup where nurses can get meals or tea on time when needed.
The main work of nurses should be taking care of their patients. But what happens is they are given many more unassigned responsibilities. Suppose there is an issue with sanitation or electricity or other civic issues – nurses are expected to tackle all these. Such multi-tasking distracts them from the main task and burdens them with other works, which are mostly the duty of managerial staff.
We often work under circumstances which are threatening, and for that we made a demand in the 7th Pay Commission for a risk allowance. Unfortunately, this was not given. There has been an anomaly prevailing regarding our salary since the 6th Pay Commission. Many people have taken this up to the court, but it has not been rectified.
As I mentioned in the beginning, a major issue here is that of the promotion. Even after putting in years and decades, there is no promotion. Initially, nurses got promotion within 15 years or so, but this is not the case now.
When the patient ratio increases, the number of staff nurses also increases. But senior-level posts are not being increased. We work in three shifts. According to norms, government officials are not supposed to work for more than eight hours. The maximum is 42-44 hours per week, but we often cross 50-60 hours. Also, we do not get any extra payment for this. Those who are in the initial stage of their nursing career like nursing officers, who are directly involved with the patients, face this issue. Those who are in the upper posts are better off in this regard.
LD Ramchandani is the Secretary General of Delhi Nurses Federation. He is also the President of Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital
— As told to Shruti Das