‘Drastic’ action on nurse shortage needed

June 1, 2021

“Drastic” action is needed to train and recruit millions of nurses globally amid a pandemic and shortage of six million nurses, says the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

President Annette Kennedy said the organisation welcomed a new World Health Organization (WHO) global nursing strategy, and urged nations to adopt it as soon as possible.

“Unless governments… act now, the current situation, with nurses being overworked, underpaid and undervalued, will continue, with potentially disastrous consequences for us all,” Kennedy said. “Nurses are the lifeblood of health systems everywhere, and they must be recognised for what they are – a precious commodity that needs to be nurtured and protected.”

The World Health Assembly (WHA) – WHO’s governing body – adopted Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025 in May.

The strategy addressed many issues ICN had campaigned on over the past 18 months, including the ongoing global shortage of at least six million nurses; the need for investment in nursing jobs, education, leadership and practice, as well as nurses’ safety in the face of a pandemic.

WHO also recommended establishing government-led chief nurses in every WHO member state, Kennedy said. WHO has 194 member states.

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said ICN’s own research suggested millions more nurses would retire over the next decade due to “mass traumatisation” from the effects of COVID-19. He called for “drastic action” from governments to train and recruit nurses, “to safeguard our future health-care systems”.

Catton was pleased to see how many countries had committed to the strategy – the first to be adopted by the WHA. ICN would work with national nursing groups to track progress.

New Zealand’s National Nursing Leaders (NNL) group has estimated New Zealand will be short of 15,000 nurses by 2035, due to an ageing workforce. NNL is also focused on growing the Māori nursing workforce from 7.5 per cent to better reflect the national Māori population of around 16.5 per cent.