On World Health Day, new report says the world needs 6 million more nurses
By Josephine Moulds, Freelance journalist on April 7, 2020
- The world needs 6 million more nurses to achieve global health targets.
- Low and lower middle-income countries suffer the most acute nurse shortages.
- On World Health Day, WHO calls for investment in a massive acceleration of nursing education.
As global health systems creak under the strain of the coronavirus, a new report shows there are not enough nurses to meet global development goals on health – even without a global pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report, State of the World's Nursing, estimates there was a global shortage of 5.9 million nurses in 2018, a slight improvement from the 6.6 million shortage in 2016.
The report has been published on World Health Day, an annual event organized by WHO, which this year is focused on supporting nurses and midwives, many of whom are serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.
"Nurses and health workers are at the forefront of COVID-19 response, working tirelessly to care for everyone’s loved ones, even when their own lives are at risk," said Dessislava Dimitrova, Head of Healthcare Transformation at the World Economic Forum. "As we clap daily to express our appreciation for the health workers around the globe, let us not lose sight of the investments that they need to be strong enough to ensure that everyone, everywhere gets the healthcare they need."
There are 27.9 million nurses around the world, an increase of 4.7 million between 2013 and 2018. Over 80% of those nurses are found in countries that account for half of the world’s population.
As well as creating new nursing jobs, the report urges governments to:
- invest in the massive acceleration of nursing education to address global needs, meet domestic demand, and respond to changing technologies and new models of integrated health and social care;
- strengthen nurse leadership to ensure that nurses have an influential role in forming health policy and decision-making, and contribute to the effectiveness of health and social care systems.
Countries should develop workforce policies that take account of the fact that the nursing workforce is still predominantly female, the authors write. Laws addressing the gender pay gap must apply to both the public sector and the private sector, and encourage flexible and manageable working hours.
“[This report] comes as the world witnesses unprecedented political commitment to universal health coverage. At the same time, our emergency preparedness and response capacity is being tested by the current COVID-19 outbreak and mass population displacement caused by conflict. Nurses provide vital care in each of these circumstances. Now, more than ever, the world needs them working to the full extent of their education and training," says the report.
191 countries provided data for the report, which was developed in partnership with the International Council of Nurses and the global Nursing Now campaign.