Not just PPEs, masks and ventilators, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront how understaffed we are in terms of the global health workforce. A recent report, called The State of the World’s Nursing 2020, highlights that the world needs almost six million nurses more and that there are just under 28 million nurses on the planet. The World Health Organization (WHO) report is in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now.

Nurses have always been at the forefront whenever we have been fighting epidemics and pandemics throughout history. They account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, providing vital services throughout the health system.

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Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy,” he added.

“Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19.”

The report states that between 2013 and 2018, the number of nursing proffessionals increased by 4.7 million. However, it still leaves a shortfall of 5.9 million. The report further indicates that the greatest gaps are found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.  It also indicates that one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained. Another threat faced by the nursing workforce is ageing and that one out of six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years.

To avert the global shortage, the report estimates that countries need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average 8 percent per year, along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system. The report also urges countries to identify gaps in their nursing workforce and invest in nursing education, jobs and leadership.

The report states that between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. However, it still leaves a shortfall of 5.9 million.

ICN chief executive Howard Catton warned of the risk that richer countries would rely on the Philippines and India to “supply the world with nurses,” which could lead to significant shortages in India.

Mary Watkins, who co-chaired the report for Nursing Now, called for urgent investment in virus tests for healthcare workers. “We have a very high proportion of healthcare workers not going to work because they’re afraid that they’ve been infected and that they can’t prove that they have not got the infection – or that they’ve had it, and they’re over it,” she said.

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Catton said that 23 nurses died in Italy and added reportedly around 100 health workers have died around the world.

He also cited that report indicate around nine percent of health workers being infected in Italy and said: “we’re now hearing of rates of infections up to 14 percent in Spain.”

The experts said that nursing remains female-dominated and needed to recruit more men.

Image Credit: pickpik.com

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