WHO Highlights New Challenges in 2020 “State of the World’s Nursing” Report

As the global healthcare industry adjusts to the strains of the coronavirus epidemic, the World Health Organization is focusing on the long-term picture when it comes to the field of nursing. In the organization’s first-ever State of the World’s Nursing Report, the WHO makes the case for the rapid acceleration of the global nursing workforce. The report calls for an additional 6 million nursing jobs by the year 2030 to address growing health concerns across the globe.

The report also calls for more nurses to take on leadership roles, while addressing the gender wage gap and its effect on nursing professionals. As a nurse or healthcare provider, take a look at how your colleagues are faring around the world and how we can all change the nursing industry for the better.

The Growing Need for Nurses

The report is based on data from the global healthcare industry, and it finds that there are simply not enough nurses to keep pace with demand – even without a global pandemic.

An additional 6 million nursing jobs are needed by 2030 if the world is going to meet certain health initiatives, such as a better quality of life for all age groups, reducing the rate of chronic conditions, reducing the infant mortality rate, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, universal health coverage, and increasing the average lifespan. The WHO estimates that there was a shortage of around 6.6 million nurses in 2016 and 5.9 million in 2018, which shows the gap is narrowing, but more progress is needed.

The report says the majority of new nurses will be needed in developing countries where many citizens lack access to healthcare services. Of the world’s 27.9 million nurses, 80% are in countries that make up half the global population. In some developing countries, the growth in the number of nurses is barely keeping pace with the growing population. This imbalance has led to widespread healthcare shortages, particularly in middle- and low-income nations.

Private and public healthcare organizations will need to find a way to create millions of additional healthcare jobs, while paying these workers a living wage. Rising healthcare costs can inhibit some companies from hiring additional staff, which puts added pressure on existing nurses.

Emphasis on Professional Development

In addition to expanding the number of nurses, the WHO wants to strengthen nursing leadership to make sure these professionals can voice their opinions in the workplace. Nurses make up the vast majority of healthcare providers, and they tend to spend the most time with patients. They are extremely sensitive to the needs of the general population as well as what it’s like to work in healthcare. Nurses can use this experience to advance the goals and interests of various healthcare organizations.

Companies should work to put more nurses in leadership roles, such as on executive boards, councils, and other important positions. These companies should also give their employees the tools they need to continue their education and advance their careers. All nurses should have the opportunity to take on more responsibilities in the workplace.

Educating the Next Generation of Nurses

The WHO is also focused on improving the education of the next generation of nurses. The report finds that the field of nursing has quickly advanced over the years as care providers bring on new technology. If the world is going to bring on an additional 6 million nurses over the next ten years, they need to have the right training and experience to care for their patients.

New nurses should have a grasp on the latest trends in the industry as well as an acute understanding of their community’s healthcare needs. Academic institutions and vocational programs need to adapt their curriculum to account for recent changes in the nursing industry, including the rise of telehealth and digital technology, new models of care, and the growing need for integrated social and mental healthcare.

Healthcare facilities and companies should be familiar with the needs of the local population and the changing face of patient care, so they can share this information with nursing schools and colleges to improve the pipeline of talent.

Money Talks

Last but not least, the report shines a spotlight on the gender wage gap and how it disproportionately affects female nurses. Most nurses are women, but these ratios vary from region to region. In the Americas, 87% of nurses are female, while in the Western Pacific, 95% of nurses are female.

The gender wage gap also varies from nation to nation, but women all over the world still make less per hour than their male colleagues. The wage gap tends to be even worse for women of color.

In the U.S., using median hourly earnings statistics and not accounting for job type differences, Latina women tend to make just 58% of white men’s hourly earnings, Black women make 66%, and white women have a pay gap of 80%. To put things in perspective, 74.6% of nurses in the U.S. are white, and 25% are Black, Asian, or Latinx.

The WHO is urging private and public companies to address the gender wage gap, so women and nurses can make just as much money as their male counterparts. This will help nurses enjoy a better quality of life. They will feel less pressure to take on a second job or work around the clock to pay their bills. Nurses will feel more empowered and satisfied on the job knowing they are being paid the same as their male peers. Raising the hourly wage for female healthcare workers will also encourage more women to pursue a career in medicine, thus narrowing the nursing shortage.

The global nursing industry has made some progress over the last few years, but these issues need to be addressed if we are going to continue moving in the right direction. Keep these ideas in mind as you advocate for your profession.

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