By 2030, the South-East Asia Region will need as many as 1.9 million more nurses and midwives, World Health Organization said on Tuesday, in a statement marking the World Health Day. The global nursing workforce is currently 27.9 million, of which 19.3 million are professional nurses.
The 27.9 million nursing personnel include 19.3 million (69%) professional nurses, 6.0 million (22%) associate professional nurses and 2.6 million (9%) who are not classified either way.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, said there is need to redouble efforts to strengthen and expand their nurses and midwives’ cadre by 1.9 million to achieve health for all goal by 2030.
“Nurses and midwives are central to quality health services for all, for preventing illness, promoting health throughout the life-course, caring for mothers, newborns and children to giving life-saving immunizations, health advice, and looking after older people,” said Dr Singh, emphasizing that while there has been progress, but more needs to be done.
The theme of the World Health Day, which marks the foundation of WHO, is support and strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce. The year 2020 is being celebrated as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, as it marks the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.
Though the availability of nurses and midwives has risen from 2.9 million in 2014, a ratio of 16 per 10 000 population, to 3.5 million, a ratio of 18 per 10 000 population, the Regional Directorsaid the regional average is still far below the global average of 37 nurses per 10 000 population, and the required minimum of 40 nurses by 10 000 population.
To fill this gap, the first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report, released Tuesday, highlights key areas that countries need to focus on - improve nursing education, improve the number of jobs for nurses, their quality and distribution in rural and marginalized areas; and enhance leadership, management and the assignment of specialized roles for nurses.
The increase of 4.7 million in the total stock over the period 2013–2018 confirms that nursing is the largest occupational group in the health sector, accounting for approximately 59% of the health professions.
“The global outbreak of COVID-19 emphasizes how crucial nurses are to health security, and WHO takes this opportunity to thank them for their service in these challenging times,” the Regional Director said.
The latest report based on data from 191 countries shows that there has been a 53% increase in availability compared to 2018. Around 80% of countries reported on 15 indicators or more. However, there are significant gaps in data on education capacity, financing, salary and wages, and health labour market flows. This impedes the ability to conduct health labour market analyses that will inform nursing workforce policy and investment decisions.
Progress on each of these priorities will help countries strengthen services for maternal and child health among other needs, while also positioning them to better respond to non-communicable diseases, to provide adequate intensive care services, and to meet the health needs of older people, the WHO has emphasized.