In commemoration of Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”1 The statistics suggest both opportunity and challenge. Nurses and midwives comprise 50% of the world's health workforce, highlighting their potential power in effecting change. However, 70% of this workforce comprises women who, in countries where the need is greatest, have no voice in policy development.2
The recently published report of the WHO's historical focus on nursing and midwifery3 catalogues the extraordinary contributions of nurses and midwives to the health and well-being of individuals and communities. The report highlights the recommendations of the WHO Study Group on Nursing beyond the year 2000, which identified “...population growth and demographic transition, infectious and parasitic diseases and health needs of women and children and the concept of vulnerability,”3(p45) as well as specific strategies that will support and enhance nurses' roles worldwide such as a greater emphasis on public health and the social determinants of health in nursing curricula, practice, and regulation and in the expansion of nurses' roles in leadership and policy.
The WHO projects a worldwide need for 9 million additional nurses by 2030, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia.2 Building the nurse and midwifery workforce of the future is inextricably aligned with women's status in society and in health care systems, particularly in countries with overwhelming needs. Here at home, we need to publicly extol the value of nursing as a life's work and promote healthy work environments for the young women and men who will shape health care in the future. Nurses worldwide need to celebrate and support the WHO's efforts in recognizing the crucial role that nurses and midwives play in improving and sustaining health around the globe. 2020 is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife—hang a sign wherever you practice, celebrate nursing every day, and keep a good thought for Florence Nightingale whose vision has let us to this point.
—Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FCPP
Editor in Chief
1. World Health Organization. Executive Board designates 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife.” https://www.who.int/hrh/news/2019/2020year-of-nurses/en
. Accessed December 15, 2019.
2. World Health Organization. Nursing and midwifery: key facts. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/nursing-and-midwifery
. Published February 23, 2018. Accessed December 14, 2019.
3. World Health Organization. Nursing and Midwifery in the History of the World Health Organization 1948-2017. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2017.