Our chance to raise the status of nurses

With 2020 named Year of the Nurse and Midwife, this is our moment, says Nursing Now director

WHO decision to make 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife means this is our moment, says Nursing Now’s executive director

Picture: Alamy

On 27 February the Nursing Now campaign will be one year old. In the past year we have flourished beyond our expectations. There is immense energy and enthusiasm among the nurses and midwives of the world for showcasing the contribution they make to healthcare for everyone, everywhere.

When I became executive director of Nursing Now in July 2018 we had about 30 country groups. Now we have 157 groups – national, regional and local – in 75 countries.

It seems that the nursing community is more than ready for Nursing Now. We have found ourselves on the crest of a wave with a social movement that seeks to improve healthcare by raising the status and profile of nurses.

Nursing in the spotlight

Such enthusiasm and buy-in is thrilling for our campaign and it signals to the healthcare world and beyond that nurses and midwives globally are ready to step into the spotlight and step up to today’s healthcare challenges.

The World Health Organization has shown its support by designating 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife – 200 years after Florence Nightingale was born. The declaration of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is a sign of change, highlighting how much the world needs us. Global awareness of the value of nurses is growing.

The 2016 Triple Impact report by a UK all-party parliamentary group demonstrated how nursing contributes to better health, gender equality and stronger economies. The penny is finally dropping with policymakers.

‘In many countries nurses and midwives are the only hope for achieving universal health coverage, but they are not central to policies and plans’

Nurses make up half of the world’s health workforce – there are more than 20 million nurses worldwide. For millions of people, throughout their lives they only ever receive medical treatment from a nurse.

Nurses often perform advanced roles to provide care that would otherwise be missed, for example when there is no anaesthetist or doctor available. In some countries nurses are also trained as midwives, while elsewhere midwives have skills that are unique in the healthcare team, with an advanced role in reproductive health for women and men.

In many countries nurses and midwives are the only hope for achieving universal health coverage, but they are not central to policies and plans, at the table or on the agenda.

The world is taking notice

This is a problem nurses have struggled with for generations. Nurses in most countries face significant pressures at work, and often have poor working conditions and low pay. Surveys show that nurses often cannot work at the level to which they are trained,  and they feel invisible and undervalued.

Almost by its very existence as a campaign, Nursing Now offers a chance for nurses and midwives to take centre stage, to celebrate their skills and achievements.

Nurses and midwives are emerging from the wings and showing that they want to step up to be influential leaders and to lead multiprofessional teams to get the universal health coverage job done.

Our Nursing Now groups are spearheading initiatives to tackle today’s health issues, which include how to achieve universal health coverage, the health of homeless people, gender-based violence, men in nursing, and the image of nursing and midwifery.

Nurses and midwives have the zeal and creativity to tell a new story of nursing, and much evidence exists about the effectiveness of nursing care. We must use this to make the most of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife and bring about a greater appreciation of and respect for nursing and midwifery.

This is our moment – nurses and midwives everywhere are rising to meet today’s health challenges and the world is finally taking notice.

Barbara Stilwell is executive director of Nursing Now



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