Govt issues draft guidelines to improve working conditions of nurses in healthcare institutions

New Delhi: The Union health ministry has issued draft guidelines, proposing annual health check-ups, a creche facility and work hours not exceeding 40 in a week, among other measures, to improve the working conditions of nurses in all healthcare institutions. It has also recommended that all healthcare establishments may, as far as possible, provide accommodation to their nursing staff within or near their premises.

The draft guidelines have been released on the ministry’s website for comments from the public and the stakeholders within 30 days from the date of issuance.

The document stated that the WHO Global Strategy on “Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030” calls for upholding “the personal, employment and professional rights of the health workforce, including safe and decent working environments and freedom from all kinds of discrimination, coercion and violence”.

Conducive working conditions would enhance patient care and contribute substantially to the overall healthcare outcomes. A safe and healthy work environment for nurses is imperative in order to envision quality nursing care.

“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.

According to the draft guidelines, all healthcare establishments have to ensure adequate infrastructure and well-equipped work stations in all units or wards to enable efficient functioning of the nursing staff.

It also mandates that all healthcare establishments will have separate washrooms and changing rooms (including providing drinking water, pantry facilities, lockers, clean uniforms etc.) for the nursing staff and should identify designated resting rooms for nurses working for a prolonged duration.

“All nursing staff to be provided with annual health check-ups, necessary immunisation and utilisation of hospital services within the healthcare establishments where they are employed,” the guidelines stated.

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.

The healthcare establishments will have to establish internal complaint committees in accordance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and should also take necessary measures to ensure the security of nurses during night shifts. Appropriate measures may be taken to ensure proper lighting in and around the work settings to promote the safety of nurses.

“Normal work hours for nurses shall not exceed forty (40) hours a week and eight (8) hours a day except where the exigencies of the service require otherwise. Compensatory day-offs can be considered for nurses working overtime during exigencies,” the guidelines stated.

The guidelines recommended promoting flexible working hours and shift duties and practising routine transfer or rotation of nurses from high-demand settings to low-demand settings to prevent fatigue and exhaustion.

“Nurses may be given a fair opportunity to actively participate in the triaging of patients in emergencies and counselling of patients in wards so that they can become part of the decision-making process for the treatment of the patients. They should be provided optimum say in decisions related to the nurses,” the guidelines stated.

The guidelines said the healthcare facilities should take initiatives to recognise outstanding nurses and take measures to upkeep the morale and motivation of the nursing staff.

All healthcare institutions should provide paid maternity leave in accordance with the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 and other authorised leave or allowances and facilities in accordance with the government’s guidelines or existing policies.

According to the guidelines, the healthcare establishments should provide induction training to the newly-recruited nurses to familiarise them with various hospital departments, facilities, guidelines and standard operating procedures, and implement fair remuneration on the basis of qualification and experience.

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