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What the World Health Organization Is Doing to Address Nursing Shortages

The World Health Organization (WHO) has had its hands full combating the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it's still doing everything possible to raise awareness about the importance of nurses and midwives in the global healthcare system. Along with the entire medical community, nurses have been on the front lines throughout the grueling battle against the novel coronavirus. As medical personnel falls victim to the virus, it further emphasizes nursing shortages estimated only to worsen. Getting the world's attention about the need for more skilled nurses is just one of the many things the WHO is doing.

Raising Awareness Of Nurse Shortages

To celebrate the work of nurses and midwives around the globe and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy, the WHO dubbed April 7, 2020, World Health Day as part of the year-long effort to highlight the challenging conditions the nursing workforce often faces.

Proclaiming 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the WHO is advocating for increased nursing and midwife staff investments as ongoing shortages in personnel threaten to leave the world desperately short of key medical staff. To help get the word out, the WHO launched the Nightingale Challenge to encourage healthcare organizations everywhere to honor nurses in every possible way.

The WHO also dispersed the first-ever nursing report to emphasize the contributions of nurses and midwives worldwide and share details on how to increase the number of these vital healthcare professionals.

Why Nurses Are Needed Yesterday

On World Health Day, the WHO sent out the 2020 State of the World's Nursing Report, the first of its kind. The report provides an in-depth look at the global nursing workforce which comprises the largest segment of healthcare professionals, accounting for more than half of all health workers worldwide. As the COVID-19 pandemic stressed the crucial need to strengthen medical staff worldwide, the WHO and its partners urged countries to make a significant investment in nurses to counter the continued rise of understaffing.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said on the WHO website that the report "is a stark reminder of the unique role they [nurses] play and a wake-up call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy."

While the number of nurses jumped by 4.7 million between 2013 and 2018, this still left a global shortfall of 5.9 million. To supply the world with the nurses it needs, the WHO made several recommendations to all countries, some of which included:

  • Increasing funding to educate and employ more nurses
  • Educating and training nurses in scientific, sociological, and technological skills to boost progress in primary healthcare
  • Improving working conditions, such as safe staffing levels and occupational health and safety
  • Modernizing professional nursing regulations
  • Using systems that recognize and process nurse credentials globally
  • Supporting leadership development among young nurses
  • Strengthening the role of nurses in care teams

The WHO will launch a similar report dealing with the midwifery workforce in 2021. Midwives may or may not be registered nurses and make up a much smaller portion of global health workers.

Take up the slack at medical facilities in need of temporary staff when you find a contract nursing job at NurseChoice.

Honoring Nurses And Midwives In 2020

Throughout 2020, the WHO will celebrate the world's 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives as part of its International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. This global spotlight provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate broad support of the need for more health workers, which includes addressing ongoing nursing shortages.

The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives by 2030 to achieve universal health coverage. The WHO and its partners, including the International Council of Nurses, will make recommendations to strengthen the nursing workforce to continue providing essential health services around the world. The Year of the Nurse and Midwife also honors the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Since its inception, the WHO has endeavored to give nurses a voice and highlight the critical role they'll play in improving health outcomes in the coming years. Get involved and spread the word with campaign materials and by sharing posts.

For further information about Year of the Nurse, highlights of nurses, and fun giveaways, follow the #YearoftheNurse tag on social media.


1. World Health Organization 

2. 2020 International Year of The Nurse and The Midwife Toolkit

3. WHO and partners call for urgent investment in nurses

4. State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020

5. 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife: a catalyst for a brighter future for health around the globe


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