The Nurses are Speaking, we need to Support and Listen.
When the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, no one could have predicted the global health crisis that would engulf our world. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported in the Hubei Province, China in November 2019, the virus spread across Chinese boarders to nearly every country in the world. On March 11, 2020, WHO announced that the COVID-19 virus was officially a pandemic after spreading through 114 countries in just three months. By December 2020, it had affected more than 75 million people worldwide. The spread wasn’t anywhere near finished, as the number of new cases is growing faster than ever, with more than 195 million reported cases and 4.18 million deaths across 220 countries and territories. Within less than 12 months after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several research teams developed vaccines that will help bring this pandemic to an end. Today, the biggest vaccination campaign in history is underway as more than 3.89 billion doses has been administered globally against COVID-19.
There have been many unprecedented changes since COVID-19 hit, especially with the impact it’s had on nurses. COVID-19 has totally changed the way that we live, socialise and work. For nurses fighting on the frontlines to safeguard our communities, it’s meant an even bigger shift in holistic nursing practices and patient care. Considering the fact that nurses constitute the majority of healthcare providers, they have a critical function in healthcare systems. In medical crises, nurses require the essential knowledge and skills in managing crises involving clinical treatment, decontamination, isolation, communication, triaging, psychological support and palliative care. With a crisis such as COVID-19, they face problems that hinder them from caring for the infected.
According to WHO, there are over 27 million nurses and midwives around the world, with nurses making up the largest workforce within the health system. As the impact of COVID-19 on patients began to manifest, nurses found themselves in situations never seen before, having to adapt rapidly to the challenges and significant changes in nursing routines, putting themselves at great personal risk. As Healthcare focus on the pandemic was urgently needed, nurses had to work longer hours and practise outside their usual scope to meet unprecedented demand. “There are few other times in history that communities have been so aware of the important jobs nurses do,” says Nicole Norman, a lecturer at Charles Darwin University. “The role, responsibilities and pressures for many nurses have likely expanded during COVID-19. Nurses are having to learn new skills and quickly such as in mental health and infectious disease control.”
Nurses around the world have been key to the COVID-19 response, continuing to provide a quality 24/7 service to the community despite physical distancing requirements and lockdowns. Nurses were asked to do the unthinkable, pushing themselves to the limit due to high demand and resulting in physical exhaustion and mental health pressures. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation representing the millions of nurses worldwide, work to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally. New evidence gathered by ICN suggested COVID-19 is causing mass trauma among the world’s nurses, with high levels of infections in the nursing workforce continuing, and nurses experiencing increase workloads, exhaustion, psychological distress and abuse. The pandemic risks damaging the nursing profession, unless world governments take action to address the COVID-19 Effect. ICN survey suggests a migration from the nursing profession, as the world is already short of 6 million nurses, with another 4 million due to reach retirement age in the next 10 years. New data shows that since the pandemic started, the proportion of nurses reporting mental health distress has risen from 60% to 80% in many countries. ICN has also gathered together studies from every region of the world which confirm rising trauma, anxiety and burnout in the nursing profession.
The first ever WHO, State of the World’s Nursing confirms the critical role of nursing in achieving universal health coverage. The report documents, the shortage of nurses; global shortage of 5.9 million nurses in 2018, a slight improvement from the 6.6 million shortage in 2016. WHO estimates there are 27.9 million nurses around the world, an increase of 4.7 million between 2013 and 2018. Over 80% of those nurses are found in countries that account for half of the world’s population. i.e. the African continent has 1% of the world’s healthcare workers – mostly whom are nurses, but 25% of the global burden of disease. The report also states that the total number of nurse graduates would need to increase by 8% per year on average, alongside an improved capacity to employ and retain these graduates, to address the shortage by 2030 in all countries. As well as creating new nursing jobs, the report urges governments to invest in the massive acceleration of nursing education to address global need; meet domestic demand, and strengthen nurse leadership to ensure that nurses have an influential role in forming health policy and decision-making.
ICN CEO Howard Catton stated ‘There can be no doubt there will be a large COVID-19 Effect on the size of the nursing workforce, which is already heading for a 10 million deficit. Even if only 10 to 15% of the current nursing population quits because of the COVID-19 Effect, we could have a potential shortfall of 14 million nurses by 2030, which is the equivalent of half the current nursing workforce. Such a shortfall would impact all healthcare services in the post-COVID-19 era to such an extent that the nursing workforce could be greatest determinant of the health of the world’s population over the next decade. With the COVID-19 Effect potentially leading to even more nurses leaving the profession, governments must act now to protect the nursing profession and our already fragile healthcare systems, or jeopardise the health of their nations and the WHO’s goal of Universal Health.’
‘Now, more than ever, the world needs nurses working to the full extent of their education and training’ says the report. ‘A health crisis like this pandemic magnifies the importance nurses have as leaders in our health care system. We need to support their invaluable insights to understand how to navigate through and end this pandemic. The rapid spread of COVID-19 poses a serious threat to human health and it is impacting severely on public health worldwide. Further effort is necessary to develop strategic recommendations and to integrate new knowledge into nursing education. The immediate efforts to control and prevent COVID-19 and to care for those who are infected remain ongoing.’
Though each country’s health system is unique to their nation, and independent of other countries, it appears that the nursing crisis is a common theme in many countries. “The Canadian government has called the nursing shortage a crisis”, the UK is stating “The next generation of British nurses aren’t coming through just as the most experienced nurses are becoming demoralised and leaving.” In the US, “Our biggest challenge is getting the pipeline of experienced nurses, there are fewer and fewer as people retire.” Our healthcare system today faces many challenges and obstacles, but the lack of qualified nurses in the workforce has huge implications for patient care, especially as more people need nursing care and the demand for nurses grows all around the world.
Historically, as well as today, nurses worldwide are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics, demonstrating their compassion, bravery and courage. “Nurses are the backbone of any health system. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.” said Dr T. A Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.
AUSTRALIAN NURSE’S MATTER. AUSTRALIANS TRUST NURSES
For the 24th straight year, Nurses ranked as Australia’s most trusted profession according to Roy Morgan’s Image of Professional Survey for 2021. More than 88 percent of Australian’s surveyed said that nurses’ honesty and ethical standards were ‘high’ or ‘very high.’ When we look more closely at Roy Morgan’s data, there is not surprise how consistent this trust is across categories; age, sex, state, regions, generations, lifecycle, socio-economic scale, work status and occupation – the numbers are nearly the same.
Does a nurse staffing crisis seem imminent for Australia, as reported that NSW may not be able to meet patient demands in the future. It’s been long publicised that there is a nurse shortage all around Australia, and NSW Ministry of Health figures predict a shortage of up to 8,000 registered nurses and midwives across the state in the next decade.
If nurses are Australia’s most trusted profession, why are Australian nurses feeling undervalued and under paid? Many nurses are unhappy as they’re neglecting their own health with inadequate sleep and more stress and demand. New research also shows, nurses are at high risk for occupational burnout. The Australian government needs to do more on a policy level to ensure that Australian nurses are fairly treated and compensated. To build the next generation of nurses, we need to ensure that nurses are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them, defend and safeguard their rights, and have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives. They will need to enhance the knowledge and skill sets of nurses in order to present positive outcomes and secure preparedness for future pandemics.
The world will most likely see another pandemic in the future and efforts must be made to ensure we learn from this pandemic in order to keep the public safe. Governments worldwide must introduce new policies for nurses to be heard, as the world will always rely on nurses. Nurses deserve to have the future of their profession taken seriously. Eventually when this pandemic is controlled, a serious policy discussion, education and supply of more nurses is required to address ongoing nursing needs.
The world needs 6 million more nurses: so what are you waiting for? This is the ideal time to go to nursing school and become a nurse. There will be more nursing jobs available than any other profession through the year 2022. It’s estimated that Australia will need more than 100,000 nurses by 2025. Best Practice Nursing Agency (BPNA) is hiring nurses to fulfill the high healthcare demand. We have a wide range of nursing opportunities in various specialty areas that can be offered to nurses who want to join our agency. If you are a qualified nurse seeking a unique work opportunity, join BPNA.
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