New nursing council Bill talks of common entrance test and exit test; bridge courses to create nurse-practitioners needed
The pandemic underscored the woeful inadequacy of India in terms of health workforce—as against the WHO requirement of 3 nurses for every doctor, India has a ratio of 2.2. Aware of the scale of the crisis this could have precipitated had India been as badly hit by Covid-19 in terms of hospitalisation as some other nations, the government has been reorienting focus on to healthcare infrastructure and human capital. After bringing the National Medical Commission into force, it has finalised the National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bill to replace the 73-year old India Nursing Council Act. In doing so, it has tried to address anomalies with nursing education. The Bill talks of a single nursing undergraduate entrance exam, quite like the NEET for medical education, to replace the many state-wise exams that candidates had to appear to secure a seat. There is also a common exit test, as is the case for medical education, to ensure uniform quality.
Additionally, the government is also recommending registration of every nurse with the state board. The Bill, as per The Economic Times, will likely also vest in the board the power to decide course structure, fee, etc; what remains to be seen is how much control the board eventually exercises. Fee regulation can be a tricky issue with private nursing education institutions competing with government ones. Another concern also needs addressing. A bridge course to have nurse-practitioners, not just to bolster healthcare human resource but also to allow nurses to grow further in their career, has to be thought of.