“The greatest threat to global health is the shortage of workers” – International Council of Nurses’ International Nurses Day demands action to invest in nursing care, protection and safety of nurses

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) today launched its International Nurses Day (IND) Toolkit, Nurses: A voice to lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to ensure global health to help nurses, other healthcare providers, governments and international organizations turn global strategy into meaningful local action and improved clinical practice on the ground.

ICN President Dr Pamela Cipriano said:

“Nurses have given their all in the fight against COVID-19, Ebola, in disaster areas and in war zones. Yet they continue to face understaffing, lack of protection, heavy workloads and low salaries. Now is the time to take concrete action to ensure workplace safety, protect nurses and preserve their physical and mental health.

“Women represent 70% of the global health workforce, but only 25% of leadership positions. They bear the burden of underpaid and undervalued jobs, as well as unpaid care and domestic work. We can help empower women and promote gender equality by investing in nursing.

“Recent reports have shown the need to invest in nursing now if we are to meet future healthcare challenges. We can no longer continue to undervalue and underinvest in nursing. It’s time to act.

“We have the WHO recommendations, which have been endorsed by member states. We know what to do. We need to move from rhetoric to action to support our nurses – and ICN’s IND Toolkit does just that.

ICN CEO Howard Catton said:

“The value of nurses has never been clearer, not only to our healthcare systems, but also to our global peace and security. Nor could it be clearer that not enough is being done to protect nurses and other health workers, tragically underscored by the more than 180,000 health worker deaths from COVID-19. We should not hesitate to say that this is a question of policy and politics, because the policies to remedy this dismal situation exist, but they are not being implemented.

“The scale of the global nursing shortage is one of the greatest threats to global health, yet governments are not giving it the attention it deserves. Access to health care is essential for safe, secure, economically prosperous and equitable societies, but it can only be achieved if there are enough nurses to provide the necessary care.

“Governments should urgently prioritize investments in nursing and the health workforce on this basis, and in proportion to its importance for the future of societies around the world.”

The IND 2022 report acts as a strategic toolkit that aligns with key documents, including the WHO Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery: 2021-2025 (SDNM); the WHO The state of nursing around the world and the International Center for Nurse Migration Support and retain in 2022 and beyond. In particular, this work supports the implementation of the SDNM by providing practical guidance required by multiple stakeholders for the effective achievement of their objectives. It also presents case studies as concrete examples in action. As such, it is a toolkit that provides cross-sector guidance to multiple stakeholders.

The toolkit examines the four priority policy areas of the SDNM: education, employment, leadership and service delivery and examines the benefits of investing in each of these areas, the evidence of under-investment; the expected results of significant investments; as well as the actions required for successful delivery and monitoring of these priorities.

In addition, the IND report focuses on two vitally important strategic priorities that have come to the fore over the past two years: investing in and prioritizing the safety of healthcare workers and caring for the health and well-being of nurses.

The report examines the additional burden the pandemic has placed on health systems and nurses; highlights the risks and the lack of protection of the profession; and presents evidence of underinvestment in nursing, globally. ICN called this combination of factors resulting in increased burden on nurses the COVID effect.

  • While health workers make up less than 3% of the world’s population, they account for around 14% of COVID-19 cases. In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35%.
  • About 20% of nurses in Japan said they had experienced discrimination or prejudice as part of the spread of the virus. In the United States, 64% of nurses felt overwhelmed and 67% said they had difficulty sleeping.
  • Healthcare workers, particularly nurses, are also more likely to be exposed to offensive behavior, including sexual harassment, than other professions. In the United States, rates of client violence against healthcare workers were estimated to be 16 times higher than in any other service profession.
  • During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the risk of infection among healthcare workers was 21 to 32 times higher than in the general adult population.
  • Virtually all WHO Member States report pandemic-related disruption of health services, and two-thirds (66%) indicated that health workforce factors are the most common causes of service disruption .
  • Due to existing nursing shortages, an aging nursing workforce and the growing effect of COVID-19, ICN estimates that up to 13 million nurses will be needed to fill the global shortage nurses in the future.

ICN has produced other resources to support IND including: IND logo, posters, social media banners, virtual background, Facebook frame and other digital tools to promote #IND2022 on media social. These can all be downloaded from the ICN website. ICN also released an interactive digital map with videos of ICN Board members discussing regional priorities and how the IND Toolkit can strengthen nursing and national nursing associations in all regions of the world.

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The ICN annually commemorates this important day with the production and distribution of IND resources and evidence. To access the report and other resources, as well as information from previous INDs, please go to https://www.icnvoicetolead.com/

Michael A. Bynum