Throughout history, from Florence to today, nurses have made an untold amount of contributions to the health of the global population. From local hospitals to medical missions to legislative work on the global stage, nurses have been -- and are becoming -- more and more of an integral component to advancements in global health. Now that it’s officially 2020, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, it’s time to recognize these contributions.
Elizabeth Iro, the World Health Organization’s Chief Nurse, spoke about this year with great importance. Along a backdrop of the growing nursing shortage (expected to reach a deficit of nearly nine million by 2030), Iro believes that this is the year for nurses to rally together, break past barriers, and make a concerted political effort to improve the conditions and scope of the profession. She stated:
"Some low- and middle-income countries will be left with the most shortages, and that is what is predicted in the nine-million figure. We need to look at a labour market approach to this shortfall, and make sure that countries are investing in training nurses to address the shortages.”
So, perhaps to best way to address the growing demand for healthcare and challenges rising along with it, we need to start thinking globally, but acting locally. University of California San Francisco dove right in during 2019, when some of its nursing students started organizing volunteer services around the homeless population of San Francisco.
The team of undergrad and Master’s level nurses serve as “nurse ambassadors,” the bridge between experiencing homelessness and receiving basic medical care. The students provide basic medical consultations and advice, sharing best practices in wound care and cleanliness.
On a more global scale, nurses like Vivian Ringo, MS, BSN, RN, CNOR have been volunteering on medical missions for the past two decades in countries like Guatemala and Egypt. Ringo believes “The role of the nurse in the management of global affairs is vital to the future. Nurses have a contribution to make in the international arena and local community.”
One area where nurses can make a difference is within the realm of surgical intervention. Often times, interventions are geared toward larger scales, not individual patients. While this allows aid to cover more ground, it can leave the individual patients needed the most care lost between the cracks. This is especially the case in many parts of the world, where cleft lip can mean the difference between success and stigma from a young age.
Nurses are an important part of these surgical missions and will only be in greater demand as the world’s population continues to grow.
Furthermore, both locally and globally, nurses are fighting against one of the leading causes of preventable death, diabetes. This is an area where nurses, Diabetes Clinical Nurses in particular, have been able to make a huge dent in the disease by providing a consistent, trusted, and knowledgeable resource for patients living with the disease.
One study found that few diabetics, especially adolescents, have a deep understanding of their treatment, and they rely on their doctor for further information. However, not everyone has immediate access to a doctor, and sometimes doctors aren’t available when the information is needed.
Further results of this study revealed how important it is for even young patients to have a more thorough understanding of their needs: “Nurses with special knowledge in diabetes have an important role to play in training patients and dealing with complications arising from the disease.”
The support nurses provide doesn’t end as an addition or alternative for general or specialist care, it continues to be wholly impactful even on its own through burgeoning telehealth technologies and other forms of technology-enhanced care. From telehealth to on-demand primary care, more nurses in front-row settings allows for more equitable and accessible care for all people.
Putting more nurses in these positions, as well as supporting those who are already there, is the way forward; this is what 2020 is all about for nurses everywhere.
Clearly, conditions and expectations are changing. So, what can you expect and how can you best prepare? Continue on to Part III.