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2020: Year of the nurse and midwife

In May, it will have been 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale and the World Health Organization (WHO) is marking the date by declaring 2020 as the first ever Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Early last year, WHO presented the proposal to member states of the 72nd World Health Assembly for consideration and endorsement.

At the turn of the decade, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during 2020, WHO and its partners will ask countries to improve the education and employment of nurses and midwives.

“With the start of a new year and a new decade, let’s take a moment to thank all of the brave health workers around the world. They’re doing life-saving work every day, including during holidays when the rest of us are with our loved ones at home. But the world needs to do a better job in supporting our health workers, paying them, training them and protecting them.”

International Council of Nurses (ICN) chief executive Howard Catton said WHO’s vision of improved global health will only become a reality if there is a massive investment in nursing.

“The research evidence is clear: having more nurses leads to better health outcomes,” he said.

“The potentially catastrophic shortage of nurses we face over the next decade can be avoided, but only if governments act swiftly and decisively to turn this situation around.”

Catton added that ICN wants to use this year to bust myths and traditional stereotypes about the profession and show the public the reality of 21st century nursing.

ICN president Annette Kennedy said 2020 is the greatest year in the history of the nursing profession.

“This is your year to tell your story about the great work you do. Every day, nurses save lives but they do it invisibly and silently and without telling anyone,” Kennedy said.

“Now’s the chance for you tell your story, to tell the world what great work you do. Take this opportunity and use it.”

To mark the theme, journal The Lancet announced it will dedicate a special issue this year to nursing, while in June last year, NursingNow launched the Nightingale Challenge, which calls on employers to increase leadership education opportunities for nurses.

NursingNow co-chair Lord Nigel Crisp said it’s time for governments to step up and take decisive action to invest in their nursing and midwifery workforce.

“This requires countries to increase their allocation to health budgets, not only increasing numbers but ensuring that nurses and midwives are resourced and supported to meet the world's health care needs."

Dr Barbara Stilwell, NursingNow’s executive director, said: “Nurses are ready for this moment – 2020 is the chance to show what nurses can do to improve health for everybody, everywhere.”

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