COVID-19: nursing is ‘one of most dangerous jobs in the world’

International Council of Nurses urges governments to act now to protect staff

Mural from an artist in Mexico City, who paints them as an attempt to stop violence against healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: Shutterstock

Nursing is ‘arguably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world’, according to the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Recent attacks against nurses have led the council to call on governments around the world to do more to prevent violence against staff.

Nurses were kidnapped in Mexico

ICN president Annette Kennedy said one of the council’s Mexican member associations reported that more than a dozen nurses in Mexico City were recently ‘held against their will, robbed and assaulted’, and their families were forced to pay ransoms to ensure their safe return.

A total of 47 healthcare professionals – most of them nurses – have been attacked during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

‘There must be zero tolerance’ of violence against nursing staff

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said: ‘Lack of protection for nurses during the pandemic, coupled with horrific personal attacks such as those in Mexico, give even more credence to the ICN describing nursing as arguably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

‘Governments must do everything possible to prevent attacks on nurses. There must be zero tolerance, and we must root out and address the causes of such horrendous assaults through education and the changing of attitudes and behaviours.’

Nurses under fire in conflict zones

The recent annual report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition highlights attacks on nurses in conflict zones, detailing several examples from 2019:

  • Cameroon – a pregnant nurse was shot and killed on the way to work
  • Central African Republic – a nurse was shot and killed by an armed group that stole his motorcycle
  • Syria – a nurse was killed when warplanes fired missiles at an ambulance station
  • Libya – a nurse was injured when Libyan National Army forces launched an airstrike on a field hospital 
  • Nigeria – a female nurse was kidnapped by Boko Haram militants before being released several weeks later

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