Nurse Career Information
What a Nurse does
Though, in the movies a nurse is a beautiful woman (with perfect hair and pancake) whom you could easily fall in love with, in reality she is anything but that. She's the one who looks after the physical and psychological needs of the sick in a hospital or a nursing home.
As a nurse your fundamental responsibility is to conserve life, alleviate suffering and promote health. Nurses are the most important component of patient care right from the general ward to the operating theatre. In fact, the availability of effective nursing services is an indicator of the health of a country's Medicare systems. Traditionally, this is a women-oriented field. But off late more and more men are seeking to be nurses.
There are various categories of nurses:
General Nurse: This is the most popular. Nurses here work in hospitals, nursing homes and sanitariums.
School Nurse: You'll supervise student clinics checking the general health of the children there. As a nurse, you will also detect minor health problems before these develop into more serious disorders. Teaching first aid and conducting lectures on health and hygiene will be your area of work.
Industrial Nurse: Work involves providing preventive and other services under the direction of an industrial physician. As an industrial nurse, you will also render first aid in case of accidents and emergencies.
Psychiatric Nurse: As a nurse, you will work with emotionally disturbed and mentally handicapped patients to develop their potential.
Midwives: As a midwife, you will look after mothers and children, from early pregnancy until about four weeks after the birth of the baby. Providing advice, support and instruction to mothers at both pre-natal and post-natal stage is your concern.
On the whole, as a nurse, you will be responsible for the well being of the patients entrusted to your care. Your duties as a nurse, will therefore extend from establishing relationships with your patient to ensuring that they are clean and comfortable during their illness. As a nurse, you will also assist the physician, keep accurate records, administer medication and help during examinations and operations.
Normally, as a nurse, you will be given the care of a set number of patients. Your duties will include assessing, discussing and planning each patient's needs, putting these plans into operation, monitoring their progress, and if necessary changing them.
Your job as a nurse, will entail keeping detailed notes to ensure continuity when you hand over your shift to your colleague. You'll have to be present when consultants visit the patient and follow up on the treatment prescribed.
As a nurse you should be able to create a bond between the patient and the medical fraternity in order to facilitate recovery. You'll play the role of manager, educator, supervisor, researcher, facilitator, counsellor and evaluator all rolled into one.
As a nurse, you will also have to consider the religious beliefs of different patient and hold in confidence all personal information entrusted to you.
Nurses are typically employed in:
• Regional health centre
• Clinics (medical, dental and community)
• Nursing homes
• Home care agencies
• Large corporations and insurance companies
• Government services other than hospitals (like prisons, schools, etc.)
• Old age homes
• Rehabilitation centers
• Self-employment (private nurse)
After completing the four-year BSc nursing degree, graduates start as staff nurses. The hierarchy sometimes differs from hospital to hospital, but generally, the next position is that of superintendent and then ward-in-charge. Then comes the matron or nursing superintendent.
The nurses today are a dejected lot as their repeated trysts with the government have been futile.
After more than 50 years of independence, the nurses have not witnessed any improvement in their working condition. According to Jwala Deshmukh, Superintendent Of Nursing Services, Government of Maharashtra, "The work we do needs to be recognised and appreciated. We should be permitted autonomy."
On the other hand the demand for trained nurses is increasing both within the country as well as abroad in the Far East, Middle East, U.K, Australia and U.S.
With the increase in the number of corporate and government hospitals, nursing homes and clinics etc. the demand for trained nurses will further go up.
The country needs nurses who are committed to the well being of the patients and willing to sacrifice their time and comforts for the sake of patients.
Abilities & Traits Required
• Physical stamina to perform your duties (nurses spend a considerable amount of time standing and walking)
• Emotional stability to cope with human suffering and frequent emergencies
• Ability to work in shifts
• Excellent communication skills
• Ability to motivate people
• Absolute dedication
• Team spirit
Academically, you can have one of the following degree/diplomas to begin your career:
• BSc Nursing
• MSc Nursing
• Nursing Diploma
• Certificate in General Nursing and Midwifery
• Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) certificate
• Health Worker
Due to the complexity of skills and advanced knowledge required, formal training, both practical and theoretical, is essential for a career in nursing.
Specialist nursing skills are required in the fields of Psychiatric Nursing, Pediatric Nursing, and Orthopedic Nursing for working in operations theatre, cardiac care unit, etc.
Earnings for nurses vary depending on the skills, degree and number of years of experience.
Most private hospitals and nursing homes are poor paymasters. Salaries start from Rs 20000-30000 a month. But the new age corporate hospitals offer a better salary in the range of Rs 45000-55000 a month.
Government hospitals pay more and remuneration there includes a lot of perks too. Gross salary ranges from Rs 25000-35000 per month or more. In other establishments, nurses are paid in the range of Rs 20000-30000 per month.
Experienced nurses with specialisation command a better salary in the private job market, i.e. the clinics, corporate hospitals, etc. Private nurses, who work on 12-hour shifts and devote all attention to one patient, are also paid well.
Most nurses get fringe benefits like paid vacation, sick leave, health and retirement benefits, dental and vision insurance.
Interview with a Nurse
Florence Harbour, Nurse
How did you decide to be a nurse?
I was very undecided about a career. But I loved attending to people, looking after my dog and nursing him. I wanted a job where I could look after the sick and also see the world.
But then nurses don’t travel much, do they?
At that point I was too enamoured with in-flight nurses. The ones who travel with the crew and attend emergencies on flight. It was only much later I realised that nurses worked on ground as well. I was more interested in veterinary sciences but it didn’t turn out that way. But my parents were furious when I enrolled for nursing.
Why was that?
Nursing at that time was not a very respected profession. It was considered a very low down profession. Even today the situation hasn’t changed much. People think nurses are people who couldn’t make it as doctors. Or when there are too many girls in the family they are sent to be either nuns or nurses. They are simply glorified ayahs, which is very sad.
Could you tell us something about the training you received as a nurse?
There are two parts to nurse training – classroom lectures and practical nursing when you have to work in the wards. You are taught how to bathe a patient, keep him clean, dressings, taking temperature, BP, correct way to administer injections, etc. All this takes three years. Midwifery is a part of this training.
I think after becoming a staff nurse (after three years of training) you should get back to it. Just go through the classes all over again. When you are studying you are learning all parts of the body. It doesn’t mean much. It’s only when you are working in the wards that you get the real picture. I think that’s the time when you should revise all that you have learnt in the classrooms. That’s why we now have what we call the in service education.
What about the human aspect of the training? Is that tough?
You join when you are barely 18 – too young to handle sickness, death, pain and trauma. It upset me a lot in the initial stages of my training and I wanted to leave on and off. But then you carry on.
To add to that my career started in the children’s ward. To see them in pain or die was the most difficult part. Young kids undergoing chemotherapy is a heart wrenching sight.
I just couldn’t handle the pain and sufferings. To see children die of cancer was too much for me. Initially, I used to be so upset that I couldn’t sleep for days. But gradually you get accustomed to it.
Are young children difficult to nurse?
Not at all. In fact they are the most pleasurable to work with. They never complain, even if they are going through pain. They never say that it’s hurting. But adults on the other hand will scream and tell you that you don’t know how to give an injection.
What about the money? Do you feel nurses are under paid?
At our times we never bothered much about the money. Our salary was nothing more than pocket money. But now it’s better. These days nurses start off at Rs 4,000-5,000 a month. But I still feel nurses are heavily under-paid for the Services they offer.
Moreover it’s a pittance when compared to the salaries nurses get abroad. In the UK they get as much as Rs 25,000. No wonder I have 2-3 resignations on my table almost every day.
What are the hardships that nurses face on the professional front?
Dealing with difficult, rude, abusive or plain lecherous patients is the most difficult part of the job. There are some who try to touch you while you are nursing them. Or even make a pass. That’s one of the reasons why we are supposed to be dressed very modestly.
Sometimes when we have very rude patients we ignore the rudeness. We still talk to them.
How do you handle such situations?
We try to be polite to them. But if they persist we let the doctor on duty know the facts. The doctor usually discharges such patients early.
What are the other difficulties you face?
People generally expect too much from nurses. They feel a nurse should be smiling for all those 12 hours that she is on duty. She should surface in a moment’s time when you need her. Now, this is a tall order. I don’t say that it can’t be done but it’s very difficult. You can co-relate with one patient but when you have 10 of them screaming at one time, it’s tough. The shifts that a nurse has to work in are also difficult, especially if you are married.
What are the qualities that make a good nurse?
You have to be a very good listener. Patients want someone to talk to them. Most often more than half their worries disappear when you give them a good hearing. The fact is there are so many patients and few nurses. Moreover patients have so much time on their hands that they need someone to listen to them.
Then, of course you have to be genuinely loving and caring. You have to want to help people get over their sickness. A nurse has to be totally dedicated.
Tell us something about your job profile
I am the nursing superintendent here. I report to Deputy Director - Nursing. I am incharge of the nursing aspect of the whole hospital. Looking into patient care, seeing that they are properly looked after, attending to complaints from patients about improper treatment, etc. is part of my job. Everything that concerns the patients and the nurses is looked after by me.
Mornings begin with rounds of the wards after reading reports of the previous night.
Bombay Hospital has three wings – and each wing is headed by a matron. Apart from that there are different matrons in the operation theatre and even the OPD. In the mornings, they brief me on patient care in their respective wings.
How do you handle Aids patients? Does that scare you?
It does scare us. In fact we have to imagine every patient to be an Aids patient. But we never refuse nursing anyone. All we can do is take precautions like wearing gloves all the time, ensuring that the gloves are not punctured, seeing that there is no splashing of blood, etc.
What is your advise to aspirants in this field?
The nursing profession demands a lot of more dedication than other professions. You have to be totally dedicated to be a nurse. It’s difficult in terms that your family will see less of you. You can’t afford to be temperamental here.
It’s not easy when you have to bathe a patient with bedsores or cut up the veins of a child to give an intravenous injection. You can’t say that it stinks.
I suggest before you take the plunge it will wiser to come to a hospital and spend a day with a nurse. Get to know the job and then make the decision.