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‘Nurses cannot continue to be abused’

WHO chief nurse says recognising value is not just about money, but appreciating nurses’ work

WHO chief nurse says recognising value is not just about money, but appreciating nurses’ work


WHO chief nursing officer Elizabeth Iro.

Nurses must not continue to be ‘abused’ by taking on extra work, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief nursing officer.

Elizabeth Iro, who has been in the world’s top nursing job for 18 months, made the comments during the International Council of Nurses (ICN) congress in Singapore last week.

‘Working beyond your scope’

‘As nurses you have a tendency to work beyond your scope,’ Ms Iro said. ‘You put in your own time and your own money to get things done for your communities. 

‘I do not think we can continue to be abused. But sometimes it is not just about the money, it is about being appreciated. Please go out and make your voices heard.’

Ms Iro, a former staff nurse and midwife who has also been the secretary of health for the Cook Islands, has 30 years’ experience in public health.

She told the conference that 400 million people worldwide lack access to essential health services that can be delivered through primary care, and nursing is key to tackling this.


ICN chief executive Howard Catton.

A clear message

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said Ms Iro’s role sent a clear message about the place of nursing in global health.

‘It sets a very clear example about the value that the WHO and the director-general put on nursing,’ he said.

The WHO’s director-general is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, previously minister for health in Ethiopia, where he was at the forefront of extending nurse prescribing for HIV/AIDS.

Mr Catton said that Ms Iro’s position should be given greater resources by the WHO. 'Her appointment is at a very senior level. ICN thinks she should have a budget and resources, as well as more staff to support her,’ he said.

He added that it was important to 'safeguard' nursing functions at WHO when changes are made in the coming years.


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