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Pressing for Progress: Nursing Now!

6 March 2018


Universal health coverage (UHC) cannot possibly be achieved without strengthening nursing globally

Across the world nurses and midwives are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital. Nurses and midwives make up almost half of the world’s health workforce[2] and yet their roles in many countries health systems remain undervalued and many are unable to work to their full potential.[3]

“Nurses around the world have shared concerns about staffing problems, poor facilities and inadequate education, training and support. This can result in poor quality care.[4]

In response to this, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Health released the Triple Impact Report[5] which makes the case for the need to invest in global nursing. The report argues that strengthening nursing will have the triple impact of:

  • Improving health: Nurses have many roles: they can provide and manage personal care and treatment, work with families and communities, and play a central part in public health and controlling disease and infection.
  • Promoting gender equality: Developing and investing in nurses – the vast majority of whom are women – will help empower them economically and as community leaders.
  • Supporting economic growth: Improving health and empowering women will in turn strengthen local economies.

These improvements will in turn aid in the achievement of Universal Health Coverage, a theme at the centre of our work at THET along with many other global health organisations.

THET has seen the vital importance of the nursing and midwifery professions first hand. Our health partnerships, in the last seven years have trained over 5,200 nurses across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  The diverse role of nurses and midwives is highlighted through the projects, for example; 192 nurses in Northern Tanzania were trained to improve anaesthesia safety, 374 nurses received specialised training in identifying cardiovascular and chronic respiratory disease in rural Ethiopia, and 703 nurses have been trained in respiratory and nutritional support to reduce newborn mortality in Rwanda.

On this International Women’s Day it is fitting that the theme is ‘Press for Progress’ as we work to improve the standing of nurses and midwifery in the world’s health workforce. It is surprising, and indeed concerning, that although 90% of the nursing workforce are women they only hold one third of senior nursing positions.[6] However, times are changing.  The WHO last year appointed the first nurse to its senior team as Chief Nursing Officer[7], Ms Elizabeth Iro. Commenting on her appointment, Dr Tedros Adhanom confirmed the importance of nursing and made a pledge to ensure that the profession is front and centre of the WHO’s thinking in the years to come.

Nurses play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions around the world, but also in transforming health policies, promoting health in communities, and supporting patients and families. Nurses are central to achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.[8]

As a nurse myself, I celebrate such positive moves from the global health arena. But the shortfalls in both the numbers and the influence nurse’s and midwives face around the world is still an all too familiar reality. That is why as Chair of Trustees at THET I am proud that we are supporting the new Nursing Now! Campaign which launched just a week ago. Brought about by the dedication of Lord Crisp, the WHO,  the International Council of Nurses and the Burdett Trust, the campaign will run for three years with the aim of improving health globally by raising the profile and status of nurses worldwide – influencing policymakers and supporting nurses to lead, learn and build a global movement.

The campaign aims to provide support to the many organisations worldwide that are already playing powerful roles in developing nursing and midwifery. Working in partnership is a central theme for our work at THET and we know the value of organisations supporting each other to bring about positive change.

Their five goals for 2020 centre around;

  1. greater investment,
  2. improved dissemination of innovative practice,
  3. greater influence in decision-making,
  4. more leadership positions,
  5. increased evidence surrounding the obstacles nursing and midwifery face.

All highlight the challenges identified by nurses from across the world. This is a campaign based upon recognition that nurses and midwives can vastly improve the state of global health. I am very much looking forward to seeing the realisation of these goals and invite you to join us as we press for progress in nursing.

1] file:///C:/Users/Charlotte/Downloads/DIGITAL%20APPG%20Triple%20Impact%20(3).pdf
[2] http://www.who.int/gho/health_workforce/en/
[3] http://www.nursingnow.org/vision/
[4] file:///C:/Users/Charlotte/Downloads/DIGITAL%20APPG%20Triple%20Impact%20(3)%20(1).pdf
[5] Ibid
[6] http://www.independentnurse.co.uk/news/the-nhs-gender-imbalance-women-are-still-disadvantaged-in-nursing-1/142298/
[7] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/chief-nursing-officer/en/
[8] Ibid

This post was written by:

Professor Judith Ellis - Chair of Trustees - THET


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