International Council of Nurses (ICN) President Dr Pamela Cipriano has addressed a crucial United Nations (UN) hearing ahead of its September 20 High-Level meeting on Pandemic Preparedness, Prevention and Response.
Speaking on behalf of the world’s 28 million nurses, Dr Cipriano said it was essential to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on the profession. She told the hearing of the huge toll COVID-19 had exacted on the physical and mental health of nurses and other health care workers around the world, infecting millions and causing the deaths of more than 180,000 of them.
Dr Cipriano said: “As a result, we are seeing alarmingly high levels of stress and burnout in nurses across the world, and this excessive burnout, coupled with the ageing of the workforce and an already existing shortage of six million nurses, half of which are in our African nations, means we have seen projections that could be as high as a 30 million shortage by 2030.
“Healthcare workers stepped up for COVID and put their lives on the line, but we have to ask, will they be there the next time?”
Dr Cipriano called for the UN Declaration, which will be published after the High-Level meeting, to address a range of issues, including investing in nursing jobs, education, leadership and practice, protecting nurses and providing them with safe working conditions, appointing nurses to executive positions in all health care organisation and government decision-making bodies, and refocusing health care systems on community-based, prevention-oriented patient centred care.
Dr Cipriano said that health care systems must be resilient, so they do not fail nurses in the future.
“Nurses are the key to healthier communities, responsive societies, thriving economies and powerful nations. Their expertise is vital to addressing everything from primary prevention to health emergencies.
“We must not forget their sacrifices during the pandemic, but instead, we need governments to value the contributions of nurses and others, elevate them to positions where they can more directly influence health care policies, and make sure that they never again have to face a deadly pandemic without the care, support and protection that they deserve.”
Download the communique here