In a week and a day on the 12th of May 2020 it will be the bicentennial of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year as always the International Council of Nurses (ICN) leads global celebrations on International Nurses Day, the anniversary of the birth of nursings most famous pioneer. This year the celebrations should have been “extra special” because 2020 has been designated the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by WHO but it really is the year of the nurse for much more sombre reasons. In the UK has now become more dangerous than being in the army. https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/workforce/in-memory-a-list-of-nursing-staff-who-have-sadly-died-from-covid-19-20-04-2020/
If you are a nurse though what has probably passed you by completely is a landmark publication by the WHO’s State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020, which should have been one of the highlights of the year. So it has now been published and its interesting although somewhat depressing to look at. This is some of what it says.
- The global shortage of nurses, which was estimated to be 6.6 million in 2016, had decreased slightly to 5.9 million nurses in 2018. An estimated 5.3 million (89%)
of that shortage is concentrated in low- and lower middle-income countries, where the growth in the number of nurses is barely keeping pace with population growth, improving only marginally the nurse-to-population density levels.
- Countries with lower numbers of younger nurses (ie under 35), like the UK and many other westernised economies will have to increase graduate numbers and strengthen retention packages to maintain current access levels to health services.
- To address the shortage by 2030 in all countries, the total number of nurse
graduates would need to increase by 8% per year on average, alongside an improved capacity to employ and retain these graduates.
- 78 countries reported having advanced practice roles for nurses. There is strong evidence that advanced practice nurses can increase access to primary health care
in rural communities and address disparities in access to care for vulnerable populations in urban settings.
- One nurse out of every eight practises in a country other than the one where they were born or trained.
- Nursing remains a highly gendered profession with associated biases in the workplace. Approximately 90% of the nursing workforce is female, but few leadership positions in health are held by nurses or women. There is some evidence of a gender-based pay gap, as well as other forms of gender-based discrimination in the work environment.
The report suggests 10 key actions to address these international nursing problems.
- Increase funding to educate and employ at least 5.9 million additional nurses worldwide
- Strengthen capacity for healthcare workforce data collection, analysis and use.
- Nurse mobility and migration must be effectively monitored and responsibly
and ethically managed.
- Nurse education and training programmes must produce nurses
who drive progress in primary health care and universal health coverage.
- Nursing leadership and governance is critical to strengthening the workforce.
- Planners and regulators should optimize the contributions made by nurses to make use of their full scope of practice.
- Countries must provide an enabling environment for nursing
practice to improve attraction, deployment, retention and motivation of the nursing
- Countries should deliberately plan for gender-sensitive nursing workforce
- Professional nursing regulation must be modernized.
- A huge amount of collaboration, more than we have ever witnessed before is required to achieve key actions 1-9.
The report concludes that if the investment in nursing is made then the returns for societies and economies can be measured in terms of improved health outcomes for billions of people, creation of millions of qualified employment opportunities, particularly for women and young people, and enhanced global health security.
The full report can be accessed at: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/nursing-report-2020
A summary in English of the report, which this Blog has been based on is available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331673/9789240003293-eng.pdf
The case for investing in nursing education, jobs and leadership is very clear when you read this. Relevant Governments, professional organisation and all stakeholders must commit to taking action. SOON… the clock is already ticking.