‘Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19,’ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. ‘This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.’
Revealingly, more than 80 per cent of the world’s nurses work in countries that are home to half of the world’s population. And one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained. Ageing also threatens the nursing workforce: one out of six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years.
To avert the global shortage, the report estimates that countries experiencing shortages need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average 8% per year, along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system. This would cost roughly USD 10 per capita (population) per year.
“Politicians understand the cost of educating and maintaining a professional nursing workforce, but only now are many of them recognizing their true value,” said ICN President Annette Kennedy. “Every penny invested in nursing raises the wellbeing of people and families in tangible ways that are clear for everyone to see. This report highlights the nursing contribution and confirms that investment in the nursing profession is a benefit to society, not a cost. The world needs millions more nurses, and we are calling on governments to do the right thing, invest in this wonderful profession and watch their populations benefit from the amazing work that only nurses can do.”
About 90 per cent of all nurses are female, yet few nurses are found in senior health leadership positions– the bulk of those positions are held by men. But when countries enable nurses to take a leadership role, for example by having a government chief nursing officer (or equivalent), and nursing leadership programmes, conditions for nurses improve.
“This report places much-needed data and evidence behind calls to strengthen nursing leadership, advance nursing practice, and educate the nursing workforce for the future,” said Lord Nigel Crisp, Co-Chair of Nursing Now. “The policy options reflect actions we believe all countries can take over the next ten years to ensure there are enough nurses in all countries, and that nurses use of the full extent of their education, training, and professional scope to enhance primary health care delivery and respond to health emergencies such as COVID-19. This must start with broad and intersectoral dialogue which positions the nursing evidence in the context of a country’s health system, health workforce, and health priorities.”
To equip the world with the nursing workforce it needs, WHO and its partners recommend that all countries:
increase funding to educate and employ more nurses;
strengthen the role of nurses in care teams by bringing different sectors (health, education, immigration, finance and labour) together with nursing stakeholders for policy dialogue and workforce planning.