Sustainable primary healthcare is the key to achieve the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of universal health coverage. Nursing staff are a vital factor in delivering effective primary healthcare. However, there has been a crunch in the nursing workforce. A UN report published in 2016 warned that the healthcare industry could witness a shortfall of 18 million health workers to accelerate universal health coverage by 2030, with nurses accounting for almost 50 per cent. What’s alarming is not just the number of personnel leaving the profession, but their valuable experience. The industry needs experienced personnel who can deliver quality care and also train and guide the younger generation. In February 2019, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) convened the ‘2019 International Workforce Forum’, called for urgent action from governments to address global shortage of nurses.
Representatives of various countries stressed on the need to make adequate investments in order to create new jobs in the healthcare sector in the lower middle-income countries. ICN suggests that in spite of rise in nurse staffing levels in some of the countries, the number of nursing professionals across the globe is not meeting the demand. So what’s causing such a huge shortage of nurses? Some of the factors creating this shortage are migration of workforce, undesirable working conditions, problems relating to recruitment and retention, working overtime, remuneration concerns etc. Migration of nurses to the developed countries in pursuit of better opportunities is pushing developing countries into a quandary as they are deprived of quality nursing professionals.
The WHO executive board recently proposed that the year 2020 be designated as ‘Year of the Nurse and Midwife’. ICN members believe this move will positively impact recruitment and retention of nurses. In 2011, WHO passed a resolution to devise strategies aimed at enhancing capacity of nursing and midwifery workforce. The organisation achieves this by working with the member states on setting targets, developing action plans, and establishing interdisciplinary health teams. The global strategic direction 2016–2020 for WHO calls for greater collaboration with all the key stakeholders to achieve the ultimate goal of universal health coverage and sustainable development goals. These revolve around skilled and competent workforce, optimising policy development, striving to enhance capabilities and potentials of nurses, seeking political support to invest in an effective workforce development.
The cover story talks about opportunities in nursing, countries facing shortage of nurses and qualified faculty, while reviewing recruitment efforts, and retention strategies and steps to attract new talent. It outlines how shortage of resources actually encouraged organisations, educational institutions, and governments work hand-in-hand with an objective to develop quality nursing staff.