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The objective of this article is to examine the situation of the nursing workforce and the shortage of nurses in the public health sector in rural India. Using secondary data from various publications of government agencies of India, an assessment of the size, distribution, adequacy, and shortfall of the nursing workforce in the rural public health sector in India is presented for the period of 2005–2017. The paper also examines the impact of nursing shortages and discusses the causes of nursing shortages in India, and shows that although the numbers of nurses in the rural public health sector have been rising incrementally in both absolute terms and in relation to the population being served in the period from 2005 to 2017, the sector is still suffering from acute nurse shortages. The densities of nurses as well as the ratio of nurses to doctors is abysmally low compared to global norms, and these figures vary considerably across states and union territories. This study has found significant adverse effects of these nursing shortages on critical health outcomes such as the infant mortality rate (IMR) and the under-five mortality rate (U-5MR). It is suggested that sufficient staffing of nurses in rural health centers should be enacted to eradicate this nursing shortage and to enhance public health care services in rural areas.
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