Nurses must make their voices heard, says WHO director general

International Council of Nurses in Seoul hears call for more advanced nursing roles

Director general of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan has given an impassioned plea for nurses to be more involved in healthcare policy and for greater emphasis on advanced nursing roles.

Addressing thousands of nurses from across the globe at the International Council of Nurses in Seoul, South Korea, Dr Chan challenged the profession to seize the initiative and was greeted with thunderous applause from delegates.

She praised nurses' efforts during the Ebola and MERS outbreaks and, speaking about the global threat from non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, and the growing inequalities in the world, urged nurses to have a greater say.

She described nurses as having been her mentors during her time as a young doctor in Hong Kong.

‘Doctors are unwilling to appraise policies that extend the supply and the roles of nurses. We must face this reality. We must tackle this reality. We must change this reality,’ she said. ‘Look at the challenges for health workers if we do not appraise the extended roles of nurses – we are not going to get better results.’

‘Many health systems in the world are at a critical juncture. Every country is talking about health reforms. They need to rethink the planning of their workforce, so this is the moment to make sure your voice is heard.’

She said that in countries facing shortages of primary health workers, nurses with advanced degrees should be allowed to practise without a doctor and to order and interpret diagnostic tests.