WHO and partners call for urgent investment in nurses
The report, by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now, reveals that today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide. Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million – with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.
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 capacity to collect, analyze and act on data about the health workforce;
- monitor nurse mobility and migration and manage it responsibly and ethically;
- educate and train nurses in the scientific, technological and sociological skills they need to drive progress in primary health care;
- establish leadership positions including a government chief nurse and support leadership development among young nurses;
- ensure that nurses in primary health care teams work to their full potential, for example in preventing and managing noncommunicable diseases;
- improve working conditions including through safe staffing levels, fair salaries, and respecting rights to occupational health and safety;
- implement gender-sensitive nursing workforce policies;
- modernize professional nursing regulation by harmonizing education and practice standards and using systems that can recognize and process nurses’ credentials globally; and
- 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.
The report’s message is clear: governments need to invest in a massive acceleration of nursing education, creation of nursing jobs, and leadership. Without nurses, midwives, and other health workers, countries cannot win the battle against outbreaks, or achieve universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.