Investing in nurses to fight the epidemic and rebuild broken health | Coronavirus pandemic
Whether it’s the COVID-19 storm in India, the exhausted workforce in the UK, organized according to a 1% salary increase, or in some parts of Kenya, nurses around the world are in crisis without payment for several months .
Underpaid, undervalued and undersupported: Nurses are reporting unprecedented levels of stress and burnout. The International Council of Nurses stated that the “COVID-19 effect” means that the global nurse shortage has now reached 6 million, most of which are in low- and middle-income countries.
This must change. If we are to overcome this epidemic and future epidemics, and solve the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases and mental illnesses, then a strong and aggressive nursing team will be the foundation of our efforts.
Now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse the situation. At this week’s World Health Assembly, the Minister of Health will be asked to approve a new five-year strategy to transform the care industry through improved working conditions, regulations, education, training, and leadership development.
As the largest group of health professionals, with the greatest influence and the highest level of population trust in society, nurses play a pivotal role in fighting diseases and achieving universal health coverage. Governments that think they cannot afford it should reconsider: evidence shows that investing in care not only improves health, but also supports gender equality and economic growth.
The epidemic has become an important focus of the actual work of nurses and other health workers-hard time, risks to personal safety, etc. However, there is still a trend to view them as “benevolent angels” rather than highly skilled professionals who combine emotional intelligence with complex problem-solving skills, because they determine the priorities of multiple patients around the clock.
Considering that the vast majority of nurses are women, some of them undoubtedly come from deep-rooted cultural attitudes. Their status in the health system is very low, which means that they have not traditionally received advice on health policies, nor have they considered holding high-level leadership positions.
The World Health Organization has appointed a Chief Nursing Officer, which is a good example. All countries should follow their leadership.
The nurses themselves are advocating for their new career horizons. The “Care Now” movement has nurse teams in 126 countries/regions, lobbying to raise awareness of what they can do, and to have a greater voice in health policy decisions.
In their daily work, nurses are demonstrating that they can be leaders and innovators-from Sana in Pakistan (a pioneer in the development of mental health treatment through telemedicine in the remote Northwest Frontier) to Stephan in Ghana (in the development of stroke The new platform for tele-neurorehabilitation) the victim called via WhatsApp, while Harriet of Uganda is an entrepreneurial nurse-midwife whose organization works tirelessly during the pandemic to support teenage girls who are pregnant and giving birth.
When we rebuild the health system after the pandemic, there are many things to do that cannot be done without nurses. Nurses need to continue to embrace leadership skills, eliminate negative and stale stereotypes and conditions, and restrict their careers anywhere. But they cannot do this alone. Governments that want to see health improvements reach all populations and bring all benefits need to invest in nursing and allow nurses to reach their full potential.
This means recognizing the key role nurses can play in designing and delivering services to the population, and creating opportunities for nurse-led care (especially noncommunicable diseases and primary and community health care).
The head nurse must be part of all policy making, planning and management committees so that they can apply their opinions and experience to health decisions. As the epidemic has so strongly highlighted, the government must ensure that nurses have decent working conditions, appropriate education and regulations, and continue to hire and retain nurses to provide adequate education and employment funds.
Nurses have given us a lot: we must ensure that they are supported, respected, protected, motivated and equipped to safely and optimally reach their full potential.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.