Nurse leaders gathered at a meeting in Thailand warned of the growing global nurse shortage at a time when the demand for nurses is increasing. The nurse leaders addressed the issue of nurse shortages and the linked subject of nurse migration, highlighting the widening gap in supply and demand of nurses.
Nurse leaders from 10 National Nurses Associations1 across Asia, representing eight million nurses, participated in the 21st Asia Workforce Forum (AWFF), co-hosted by International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the Nurses’ Association of Thailand and held in Bangkok, Thailand, 1-2 March 2023. The focus of the Forum was to discuss current nursing and health priorities across the region, and share strategies to effectively support nurses across Asia.
The Forum was convened at a time when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge health system rebuild, whilst also having been a major cause of nurse stress, burnout and turnover. One key focus for the AWFF was to assess how the pandemic nurse workforce challenges can best be analysed and addressed. Participants reviewed and verified these challenges, and explored strategies for cooperation among countries. Nursing shortages, ageing populations and other key concerns were discussed.
Howard Catton, ICN Chief Executive Officer, who represented ICN at the meeting, described the paradox of the Forum’s discussions:
“Nurse shortages are biting hard across Asia and undermining universal health coverage, yet when countries put in place new facilities or models of care to increase access they need nurses to run them! Health for All is not going to happen without investment in nurses.
What we have heard at the Forum, directly from nursing representatives from India and the Philippines, who have traditionally been suppliers of nurses to the world, is a story of increasing shortages and demands for nurses in their countries. This should be an alarm bell for those higher-income countries who have relied on these countries as sources of nurses to address their own shortages that this will no longer be a viable or sustainable solution. Nurses must not be reduced to commodities. It is higher-income countries who are going on this global shopping trip, they are taking from shelves that are already very bare and can least afford to lose nurses.
The Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery (GSDNM), developed by ICN and WHO provides a roadmap for addressing the shortages and need for investment in nursing but what we are hearing from some delegates at the Forum is that there are significant variations in awareness and implementation of the GSDNMs in different countries. This must be addressed.”
Prof. Dr. Siriorn Sindhu, President of the Nurses’ Association of Thailand added:
“The Nurses’ Association of Thailand was honoured to host this important Forum to discuss the many challenges and opportunities that nurses in the region are facing. We are grateful to ICN for bringing us together to learn from each other’s experiences and strategize about how to deal with issues confronting nursing in many countries. The need to invest in nursing, address the nursing shortage, ageing populations and other challenges are critical to the sustainability and growth of global health.”
At the end of the AWFF, participants released a communique which highlighted the important topics discussed. These included:
Read the full communiqué here.
ICN’s three Board members from the Asian region, Lian-Hua Huang, ICN’s 3rd Vice President, (Taiwan Nurses Association), Nanthaphan Chinlumprasert (Nurses’ Association of Thailand) and Megumi Teshima (Japanese Nursing Association) were also in attendance. Expert speakers at the Forum included: Prof. James Buchan, WHO Collaborating Centre expert on global workforce issues; Meredith Wyse, Senior Social Development Specialist, Asian Development Bank; Ms. Ai Tanimizu, Regional Advisor for Nursing, WHO SEARO; and Ms. Eriko Anzai, Nursing Officer, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.
Download the press release here
1Chinese Nursing Association, Indian Nursing Council, Indonesian Nurses Association, Japanese Nursing Association, Nurses Association of Macau, Malaysian Nurses Association, Philippine Nurses Association, Singapore Nurses Association, Taiwan Nurses Association, Nurses’ Association of Thailand.