When the World Health Organization (WHO) named 2020 the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, it likely had no idea how fitting that recognition would turn out to be. While healthcare professionals of all types are battling the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses typically represent the frontline defense.
Once the crisis eases, it’s important to remember why the WHO wanted to honor nurses and midwives in the first place.
Why Nurses and Midwives Deserve Attention
International Council of Nurses (ICN) President Annette Kennedy recently made a statement that captures why nurses are so vital to individuals, families, communities, and the world:
“Whenever I talk to nurses, I realize that each of them has a story to tell. They are with patients from birth to death, they share in their saddest and most joyful times, they help them to get through the most traumatic of situations, and they help them to recover their lives. And sometimes, they sit with patients while they are dying, providing comfort and solace in the last moments of life.”
Perhaps the most powerful phrase she articulated was “birth to death.” A nurse’s contributions to healthcare span one’s entire lifetime. Doctors play a key role as well, but the reality is that nurses make up a majority of the global healthcare force. In lesser-developed countries, a nurse may be the sole healthcare provider in the area. If there aren’t enough nurses, disease prevention and delivery of care may not only suffer in these settings, it could cease completely.
Reducing Maternal Mortality Rates (MMRs)
Midwives play a key role in reducing maternal mortality rates across the globe, particularly in low to lower middle-income countries where 94% of all maternal deaths occur, according to the WHO. Even the United States, with all its advancements in medical science, has the highest maternal death rate among developed countries.
Data from the WHO and organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) reveals an underlying message: With more midwives, the impact on global maternal death rates could be significant. As Sushmita Roy states in her Global Citizen article, “More midwives mean more healthy mothers and babies.”
Shortage of Nurses and Midwives
As it turns out, solving the problem isn’t easy. Part of the reason the WHO chose to honor nurses and midwives in 2020 was to address the critical shortage of both types of healthcare workers. It’s estimated that a worldwide shortfall of nine million nurses and midwives will occur by 2030, without the appropriate steps to shift that projection.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the U.S. will need 200,000 or more registered nurses per year until 2026 to meet healthcare demands. This far surpasses the demand for other occupations within the healthcare and science category.
No Shortage of Jobs
The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife also serves as a platform to encourage those currently working in the nursing field or considering it as a career choice to go all in. This includes pursuing higher levels of education because the rising complexities of healthcare delivery and healthcare as a whole will require more advanced skills and expertise.
Registered nurses who currently have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) should consider the emerging opportunities that require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many healthcare organizations are leaning toward hiring nurses with a BSN over an ADN.
Should one be interested in pursuing a career in midwifery, which calls for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), the educational path typically requires nurses to already have their BSN in order to enter a master’s program. Fortunately, many educational institutions offer online RN to BSN programs —enabling nurses to continue working while completing their degree.
Nurses and Midwives Needed
The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife started out as a way to commemorate an important historical event — the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. It also marks other key milestones such as the release of the first “State of the World’s Nursing Report” and the culmination of the three-year “Nursing Now” campaign.
Given the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, nurses and midwives around the world will need all the strength, courage, innovation and expertise to live out the ideals Ms. Nightingale put into motion two centuries ago.
Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online RN to BSN program.