working tirelessly in these unprecedented times. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling it the "International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife" (YONM 2020), and few could have foreseen what this period in time would bring.
Representing the frontline defense against COVID-19, nurses have been called to battle the pandemic and manage its devastation. Efforts to create a vaccine bring optimism for a brighter future. But, even as communities around the world begin to return to some semblance of normalcy, we cannot forget why the WHO wanted to dedicate this year to nurses and midwives.
YONM 2020: The WHO's Original Vision
Along with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the WHO's original vision was a year-long celebratory initiative to recognize and highlight the challenging conditions nurses and midwives often face. Part of the WHO's initiative was to advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce.
Calling 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife was also a way to commemorate an important historical event — the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Other milestones for 2020 include the release of the first "State of the World's Nursing" report and the culmination of the three-year "Nursing Now" campaign.
Where We Are Now
The YONM 2020 campaign has roots in raising awareness. For example, one of its urgent components addresses the nursing shortage. The WHO states that the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives to achieve "health for all" by 2030.
In the United States alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the U.S. will need an additional 200,000 or more nurses per year from now until 2026. That projected need adds up to more than one million additional nurses in just one country — and one with a highly-developed healthcare infrastructure when compared to other countries around the world.
YONM 2020 also sought to spotlight the need for more financial support for nurses and midwives and emphasize why these caregivers are so integral within global communities. It aimed to bring attention to gender inequality within the nursing and midwifery fields and showcase why supporting nurses actually boosts economic growth.
Investing in Education, Jobs and Leadership
Released this year, the "State of the World's Nursing 2020" Executive Summary captures the concepts put forth by YONM 2020. The report is a collaborative effort from key organizations — including the WHO, ICN and Nursing Now — and covers three areas of the current state, and future aspirations, for the field of nursing: education, jobs and leadership.
Education is particularly critical — not just for nursing students, but also in terms of faculty and infrastructure investments. Across the U.S., nursing faculty shortages are limiting the number of students who can attend degree programs, which is only contributing to the overall healthcare worker shortage.
If governments and other relevant stakeholders focus on investing in adequate resources, nurses can cut down the average duration of schooling (the report shows). In fact, accelerated nursing programs in the U.S. currently allow registered nurses (RNs) to advance their education by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in as few as 12 months. BSN-prepared nurses learn valuable skills as the healthcare environment embraces changing technologies and advancing models of care.
That nurses with a BSN can take on leadership roles is an integral part of the executive summary's message. It's essential to ensure nurses attain an influential role in both health policy formulation and decision-making. Their voices need and deserve to be heard.
The Irreplaceable Work of Nursing
What began as a platform to bring attention to the field of nursing quickly became a global rally cry for our frontline warriors. The YONM 2020 message has only been strengthened over the past few months, a sentiment ICN President Annette Kennedy expressed on behalf of the ICN.
"In this Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the eyes of the world are on our profession in a way that we could not have anticipated," said. Kennedy. "Nurses are in the spotlight, and all around the planet this tragic pandemic is revealing the irreplaceable work of nursing for all to see."
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