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2020: WHO's International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

PATRICIA JAKEL, MN, RN, AOCN | April 02, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.1 Nightingale was a visionary nurse and leader, and we are thrilled to honor her in 2020 with this initiative. This may not seem significant to us in the United States, where nursing is ranked as the most trusted profession, according to Gallup’s polls;2 but in many countries, nurses and midwives are considered less important and treated with less respect. WHO’s 2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife celebration will hopefully elevate nursing throughout the world and lead individuals to recognize the many roles we nurses fill in global healthcare.

The Year of the Nurse designation by the WHO highlights the push to increase the global nursing workforce. Nurses and midwives make up more than half the healthcare workforce worldwide, and the WHO estimates that this year there will be a shortage of nearly 9 million nurses.1 As the world faces growing healthcare shortages, there are ambitious efforts being made to reach a goal of universal health coverage around the world by 2030. Nurses need to be on the front line.

As a civically engaged nurse, you need to become involved in and educated about the initiatives aimed at nurses for taking action and making changes to the profession.

Below is a list of resources and organizational endeavors that nurses should be familiar with to improve their professional practice. The recurring theme is to take action to improve nursing and improve our role in global care worldwide.

- Future of Nursing 2020-2030. This report is a follow-up to the original Future of Nursing report, created by the Institute of Medicine. 

- WHO’s 2020 Campaign: International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Investing in more nurse-led services will enable nurses and midwives to practice to their full potential worldwide.

- The Nightingale Challenge. The challenge, created by the American Nurses Association, is designed to engage at least 1000 organizations in providing leadership development to at least 20,000 nurses and midwives under the age of 35. 

- Nursing Now. This is a global campaign between the WHO, the International Council of Nurses, and Burdett Trust for Nursing. The intent is to raise the status of nursing worldwide by investing in all aspects of nursing. 

- Nursing Now USA. The organization promotes innovation, develops policy, and expands our influence.

Florence Nightingale continues to serve as a symbol of the power of nursing and demonstrates nurses’ critical role in global healthcare. Nurses are in unique positions to make a difference every day locally, nationally, and globally for patients, the profession, and individually. Everyone has the opportunity to do something that strengthens nurses in 2020—do it now. How lucky we are. Be like Florence— make a difference in nursing.

  1. World Health Organization. Year of the nurse and the midwife 2020. Accessed February 27, 2020.
  2. Reinhart RJ. Nurses continue to rate highest in honesty, ethics. Gallup website. Published January 6, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2020.

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