HANDIGARH: Despite having over a hundred nursing schools and colleges, Punjab is facing an acute shortage of nursing staff in its hospitals, as most nurses tend to choose better pay packages abroad.
The required ratio for nurses is 1:3 in the general ward and 1:1 in ICU, but at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research here the ratio of nurses in the general ward is 1:27 and in ICU, it stands at 1:6. There are 1,664 sanctioned posts of nursing staff, but there is a 30-40 per cent shortage.
While some nurses are on long maternity leaves, most of them are preparing for the Nursing License Exam to avail themselves of opportunities abroad.
A shortage of skilled medical staff in many developed countries, the prospects of high pay and social respect are reasons enough for underpaid, overworked nurses in Punjab to queue up at English-speaking tuitions and apply for vacancies abroad.
Low pay structure is a major reason behind the migration. The placement consultant of one of the leading nursing colleges here said: “The difference in the pay is reason enough for many as they can earn anything between Rs.16-18 lakh annually in foreign countries, while in India their pay is less than Rs.2 lakh. Also, a huge number of nurses close to retirement try to go abroad with the goal to settle their families abroad.”
It is a normal practice for nurses to get enrolled with private academies around the city to upgrade their diploma to an internationally accepted nursing degree.
After upgrading her diploma to a nursing degree acceptable in Australia, Shalini Mehta is all set to for the IELTS exam.
“The nurses who have settled in countries such as New Zealand and Italy tell us that the amount of respect they get there is unmatched. Although we work more than a doctor, in we are paid less and respected even lesser.”
Inderjeet Kaur Walia, the Principal of the PGIMR’s National Institute of Nursing Education (NINE), the country’s premier nursing institute, admits that the ambition to settle abroad is a goal for many students enrolled in the B.Sc. nursing course.
“The students who do not get absorbed here do look for placements outside. Overseas placement is lucrative but I am sure it is not the only aim, many work as nurses because it is a noble profession viewed with respect.”
She added: “The mandatory exam for nurses in U.S.A., CGFNS (Commission of Graduate of Nursing School), is hardly an exacting test for good students of NINE.”
One of the students from NINE said that last year, 30 to 40 nurses from the PGI went abroad on very good pay packages. Indian nurses have a reputation of being sincere and hardworking. Even this year, many nurses have gone to Ireland on a good salary.
Chandigarh-based INSCOL Academy of Nursing, which has a tie-up with the University of Sunderland in the U.K., offers job placement in the U.K. and the U.S.A. on an average salary of Rs1.5 lakh a month.
While opportunities are many, it is important to exercise caution. They must pay attention to the terms and conditions of the middlemen. “Many a times, the nurses are required to pay 40 to 50 per cent of their salaries for two to three years under the contract,” said a placement consultant from the city.