COVID spotlight an ‘opportunity’

December 1, 2020

Having a COVID-19 pandemic in the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife had put a “dual spotlight” on nurses and midwives, and the opportunity to advance nursing and midwifery, World Health Organization (WHO) chief nursing officer Elizabeth Iro told the forum.

WHO’s 2020 State of the World’s Nursing report showed much to celebrate, with growing educational opportunities for nurses, which made a difference to population health in the region, she said. But “vast inequities” remained in nurse numbers round the region. While there were 6.5 million nurses in the western Pacific, under-investment in training had contributed to a shortage of 350,000, compounding barriers to health care in remote areas, Iro said. More support was also needed to extend scope, particularly when no other health professionals were available.

The realities of nursing exposed by COVID-19 highlighted the need for a collective nursing voice. “We need to remind governments and employers that investment in nursing is not a cost. But there is a higher cost for inaction.”