The government issues draft guidelines to improve the working conditions of nurses in healthcare institutions.

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To improve the working conditions for nurses in all healthcare institutions, the Union Health Ministry has released draft standards that include recommendations for yearly health examinations, a creche, and work hours that don’t exceed 40 per week, among other things. Additionally, it has been advised that all healthcare facilities should try to house their nursing staff on or close to the premises, if at all practicable.

The ministry has posted the draught rules on its website for public and stakeholder feedback within 30 days of the date of issuance. According to the document, upholding “the personal, employment, and professional rights of the health workforce, including safe and decent working environments and freedom from all types of discrimination, coercion, and violence” is required by the WHO Global Strategy on “Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030.” Healthy working circumstances would improve patient care and significantly impact the outcomes of overall healthcare. To envision high-quality nursing care, nurses must work in a safe and healthy atmosphere.

“Therefore, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has drafted the guidelines to give effect to the resolution towards improving working conditions of nurses in various healthcare establishments,” it said.

To enable the nursing staff to function effectively, the proposed standards state that all healthcare facilities must have enough infrastructure and well-equipped workstations in all units or wards. Additionally, it requires that all healthcare institutions provide specific resting areas for nurses who work for extended periods of time, as well as separate restrooms and changing areas for the nursing staff (as well as supplying drinking water, pantry facilities, lockers, clean clothes, etc.). The rules said that “all nursing staff shall be provided with annual health examinations, required immunisations, and utilisation of hospital services inside the healthcare establishments where they are working.”

All healthcare establishments to provide for a creche facility in accordance with the provisions of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 and may, as far as possible, provide accommodation to their nursing staff within or near the hospital premises, the guidelines said.

In accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redress) Act of 2013, healthcare facilities must set up internal complaint committees and take other appropriate steps to protect nurses working night shifts. In order to increase the safety of nurses, appropriate measures may be done to provide suitable illumination in and around the work environments. “Unless the needs of the service dictate differently, nurses’ normal workweeks cannot exceed forty (40) hours and eight (8) hours per day. For nurses working overtime due to emergencies, compensatory day offs may be regarded as “the instructions specified

To reduce fatigue and depletion, the guidelines advised encouraging flexible working schedules and shift responsibilities as well as routine nurse rotation from high-demand to low-demand settings. “As part of the decision-making process for the patient’s care, nurses may be provided with a fair opportunity to actively engage in the triaging of patients in emergencies and the counselling of patients in wards. They should have the most voice possible in choices affecting the nurses, “the instructions specified

According to the standards, healthcare facilities should take steps to recognise exceptional nurses and maintain the motivation and morale of the nursing staff. According to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017, all healthcare facilities must offer paid maternity leave as well as other authorised leaves, allowances, and amenities in compliance with existing policies or government regulations. According to the rules, healthcare facilities should adopt equitable compensation based on qualification and experience, and they should give newly hired nurses induction training to acquaint them with the various hospital departments, facilities, guidelines, and standard operating procedures.

Mayank Tewari

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