Nursing can be a thankless job at times. Yet, despite the long hours, challenging cases and overall stressful situations, nurses power through and provide the care their patients need.
To recognize these efforts, along with the care midwives give, the World Health Assembly has designated 2020, which happens to be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
What Are the Goals for 2020?
The World Health Organization (WHO) was not alone in creating this initiative. The organization partnered with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to establish the designation and to dedicate this year-long effort. The goals set forth are to "celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce."
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MD, WHO Director-General, says, "Nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system. In 2020 we're calling on all countries to invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all."
Those investments are critical, as the WHO reports that 18 million more healthcare workers are needed globally if we are to achieve and sustain universal health coverage by 2030. As nurses make up half of the healthcare workforce, a total of nine million nurses and midwives are needed.
With this initiative, the WHO and its partnering organizations are actively striving to address the deficit. But, it's important to note that they have goals far beyond just "filling positions." It's about truly empowering nurses and midwives to excel. When they are given the opportunity to perform to their full potential, the entire healthcare universe benefits.
Why Nurses Are Critical Points of Contact in the Communities They Serve
Nurses are the heart of any care team. They are typically the point of contact for patients in medical settings, but they are also often the first and only point of contact in the communities in which they serve. This is not only important from a caregiving perspective, but it also provides a valuable opportunity for education.
For example, in underserved populations or disenfranchised communities, nurses play integral roles. They may work in volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross, Peace Corps or Doctors without Borders, educating community members on everything from disease prevention to sexual health and family planning.
Nurses who work in community clinics are also on the front lines, providing information at health fairs or other gatherings. School nurses are key to preparing children for a life of well-being, focusing on issues like illness prevention, disease management and obesity. In many cases, school nurses have the opportunity to educate parents as well.
And, school nurses are always hyper-aware in terms of recognizing instances of abuse or neglect — perhaps serving as the only point of contact affected students have for intervention.
Nurses Play an Important Role in Progressing Healthcare
In addition to serving as educators, nurses are also beginning to receive recognition as innovators. Whether their contributions exist in a governmental capacity such as leading policy change, or within technological frontiers, nurses' everyday efforts are responsible for advancing care.
While many of the actions nurses take on a day-to-day basis are innovations, there is an effort to bring more nurses into the formal conversations about innovation. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has even developed an entire campaign surrounding innovation, dedicated to "building a culture of innovation in nursing."
The ANA has partnered with other organizations to ignite innovation via various events and opportunities, including an event modeled after the hit television show, Shark Tank. NursePitch is a live, interactive event that gives nurses across the country a chance to pitch their innovation ideas and ultimately bring them to life.
2020 and Beyond
In truth, every year should be the year of the nurse. Their dedication to the field, to their patients and to their communities is an ongoing and concerted effort that sometimes leaves them weary.
With WHO, ICM, ICN, Nursing Now and UNFPA all coming together to celebrate that dedication and recognize the many challenges nurses and midwives face, these organizations are providing a platform for a brighter, stronger healthcare future.
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