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For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to light the urgent need to strengthen the global health workforce, and nurses in particular. The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now titled 'The State of the World’s Nursing 2020' which provides an in-depth look at the largest component of the health workforce.

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

- Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers

- There are just under 28 million nurses worldwide

- Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million.

- One in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained

- About 90 per cent of all nurses are female, but the bulk of the few found in senior health leadership positions are male

The report also lists the top recommendations of WHO and its partners to address the need fo nurses, which are: 

- increase funding to educate and employ more nurses;

- Strengthen capacity to collect, analyze and act on data about the health workforce;

- Monitor nurse mobility and migration and manage it responsibly and ethically;

- Educate and train nurses in the scientific, technological and sociological skills they need to drive progress in primary health care;

- Establish leadership positions including a government chief nurse and support leadership development among young nurses;

- Ensure that nurses in primary health care teams work to their full potential, for example in preventing and managing noncommunicable diseases;

- Improve working conditions including through safe staffing levels, fair salaries, and respecting rights to occupational health and safety;

- Implement gender-sensitive nursing workforce policies;

- Modernise professional nursing regulation by harmonising education and practice standards and using systems that can recognize and process nurses’ credentials globally; and

- Strengthen the role of nurses in care teams by bringing different sectors (health, education, immigration, finance and labour) together with nursing stakeholders for policy dialogue and workforce planning.