The World Health Organization designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. What does that mean for nurses everywhere?

The designation was made last year by WHO to help raise awareness of the nursing and midwifery professions and also to call attention to global health. Nurses and midwives, says WHO, are critical components for improving the health of people worldwide. By calling attention to the nurses and midwives who take care of people every day, it’s also shining a light on disparities that exist and that nurses are helping to bridge.

What makes 2020’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife so special? It happens to be the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession. And 2020 is also the end year for several campaigns around nursing—the Institute of Medicine’s proposed goal for having 80 percent of nurses having earned a bachelor degree and WHO’s own three-year NursingNow! campaign that ends in 2020. NursingNow! focuses on how raising global health will raise the state of nursing and help support essential policies around nursing.

This year also marks the year WHO is developing a State of the World’s Nursing Report to be presented at the 73rd World Health Assembly to be held May 17 to 20 in Geneva. The organization is also contributing to a State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 report that will be released this spring.

As more attention is focused on the nursing profession and the role nurses play in offering primary care around the globe, the more strategic decisions will focus on strengthening the nursing industry and supporting nurses and midwives in their roles. The hope is that focus will bring an influx of funding into more research, career supports, and adding new or strengthening existing policies to protect nurses, midwives, and patients. With these positive and effective changes started, the path is paved for better working conditions, more nurses in the field, a more diverse and inclusive workforce to represent patient populations, and improved patient health.

As a force of global change, nurses will play a pivotal role in helping achieve the WHO goal of universal health coverage and contribute to the global Sustainable Development Goals presented by the United Nations.

As a goal, the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife is on target for what professional nurses need and want to hear and have action taken on. But the designation also speaks to the state of global health and the pivotal role nurses and midwives play in keeping humanity healthy, despite some declining rates of nurses.

Nurses work in all conditions in some of the most remote corners of the world to ensure that no matter where people live and no matter what conditions they live in, that they will be able to achieve the best health possible. That alone is a lofty goal and one that nurses get up every day and just do. At the very least, nurses deserve a year dedicated to the impact they bring. Let’s hope the Year of the Nurse brings the change nurses deserve.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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