Global Shortage of Nurses, warns WHO report

8 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth

There is a global shortage of nurses, a new report from the World Health Organisation, Nursing Now and the International Council of Nurses has warned.

The first “State of the World’s Nursing” report, which is published to mark World Health Day (Tuesday), warns that:

  • there is a global shortage of 5.9m nurses,
  • an ageing nursing workforce “threatens the stability” of nursing, particularly in Europe,
  • high-income countries like Ireland have an “excessive reliance” on international nursing mobility.

The report looked at data on the world’s 27.9m nurses, from 191 countries. Globally, nurses make up 59% of the healthcare workforce, compared to 32% in Ireland’s public health service. As in Ireland, over 90% of nurses globally are women.

To meet current and future health needs the report recommends:

  • an 8% increase in the number of nursing graduates each year to 2030,
  • an expansion of advanced nurse practice and nurse-led units,
  • more nursing positions funded globally,
  • fair remuneration and strong retention measures.

International Council of Nurses President, Annette Kennedy, said:

“Every penny invested in nursing raises the wellbeing of people and families in tangible ways that are clear for everyone to see. This report highlights the nursing contribution and confirms that investment in the nursing profession is a benefit to society, not a cost”.

WHO Secretary-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, said:

“The world needs to learn from COVID-19 that it is essential to invest more in nursing. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role nurses play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.’

Here in Ireland, INMO President, Martina Harkin Kelly, said:

“COVID-19 has shown us how vital nursing and midwifery is to global health and wellbeing. Many warnings on staffing were not heeded before this pandemic – we cannot allow a global nursing shortage to hamper our response to future public health emergencies. This report must be the basis for immediate action in Ireland and globally to support the retention of nurses.”

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