State of the World’s Nursing 2020 Report Just Published!

State of the World’s Nursing 2020 Report Just Published!

Posted on April 7, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now!, have published the State of the World’s Nursing 2020 report (available here). This report analyses the contribution of nurse’s healthcare systems worldwide, as well as the major challenges the workforce is facing at the moment.

The first-ever State of the Worlds Nursing 2020 report aims at fostering investment in the nursing workforce as a mean to achieve the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those goals related to education (SDG4), gender (SDG5), decent work and economic growth (SDG8). The report also examines nurses’ key role for achieving universal health coverage. The nursing profession is essential to ensure that “no one is left behind”. Nurses make a central contribution to national and global developments related to health priorities, universal health coverage, mental health, non-communicable diseases, emergency preparedness and response, patient safety, and above all, the delivery of integrated and people-centred care.

The report starts by examining how the nursing profession is expanding in size and professional scope. Sadly, this expansion is not equitable, far from sufficient to meet rising demand, and is leaving some populations behind. In this edition of the report, 191 countries provided data, an all-time high and a 53% increase compared to 2018 data availability.

The report concludes that the global nursing workforce is 27.9 million, of which 19.3 million are professional nurses. Moreover, the world does not have a global nursing workforce commensurate with the universal health coverage and SDG targets. Over 80% of the world’s nurses are found in countries that account for half of the world’s population. The global shortage of nurses was estimated at 6.6 million in 2016, had decreased slightly to 5.9 million nurses in 2018. The ageing health workforce patterns in some regions threaten the stability of the nursing stock. Another important remark the report makes is that nursing remains a highly gendered profession with associated biases in the workplace. Approximately 90% of the nursing workforce are women, but few leadership positions in health are held by nurses or women.

Taking the state of the world’s nursing into account, the report draws a series of policy considerations (namely, ten key actions) to foster the profile of the nursing profession globally. These are:

  1. Countries affected by shortages will need to increase funding to educate and employ at least 5.9 million additional nurses.
  2. Countries should strengthen capacity for health workforce data collection, analysis and use.
  3. Nurse mobility and migration must be effectively monitored and responsibly and ethically managed.
  4. Nurse education and training programmes must graduate nurses who drive progress in primary health care and universal health coverage.
  5. Nursing leadership and governance is critical to nursing workforce strengthening.
  6. Planners and regulators should optimize the contributions of nursing practice.
  7. Policy-makers, employers and regulators should coordinate actions in support of decent work.
  8. Countries should deliberately plan for gender-sensitive nursing workforce policies.
  9. Professional nursing regulation must be modernized.
  10. Collaboration is key.

In conclusion, global leaders must invest in education, jobs and leadership for the nursing profession.