Why do challenges and barriers remain that prevent nurses from practicing to the full extent of their education and training? Why are nurses considered superheroes when it is convenient to some and voiceless robots when advocating for themselves? Why are nurses still asking when they will become full citizens in healthcare delivery?
Nursing recognition in 2020
In designating 2020 The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged that the only way to reach a goal of universal health coverage by 2030 was through the undeniable engagement and empowerment of nurses and midwives. These professionals are necessary for local, national, and global communities to provide high-quality healthcare, unimpeded by restrictions perpetuated by current healthcare, regulatory, and other systems. The WHO challenged countries and governments to invest in the massive acceleration of nursing education; create at least 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030, primarily in low- and middle-income countries; and strengthen nurse leadership.1
However, during 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic usurped plans and resources worldwide and the treatment of nurses went through several unexpected turnabouts. At times, nurses and other healthcare professionals found themselves targets of verbal and physical abuse, work and financial discrimination, and public condemnation.2 The global health crisis exposed the myriad of entrenched health disparities and magnified the important role nurses play in shaping healthcare outcomes for all patients by their constant presence, caring, and competence. Nurses always rise to the call even when their own lives are at risk, and others try to weaken their voices to screaming whispers.
Updated future of nursing
The prepublication copy of The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity was released in May 2021 as a follow-up to the 2011 Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The new report explores “how nurses [in the US] can work to reduce health disparities and promote equity, while keeping costs at bay, utilizing technology, and maintaining patient and family-focused care into 2030.”3 The group proposes nine recommendations that echo messages from the WHO and calls on all organizations to remove barriers that will enable nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training. It also emphasizes the role of nurses in addressing the social determinants of health and health equity. Recommendations address responsibilities of state and federal entities, healthcare and public health organizations, and employers; federal, tribal, state, local, and private payers; and nursing education programs, nursing leaders, and licensing boards. The final recommendation advocates for the development and support of a collective research agenda and evidence base “describing the impact of nursing interventions, including multisector collaboration, on social determinants of health, environmental health, health equity, and nurses' health and well-being.”3
Nurses are asked to take better care of themselves so they are better able to care for others. This is difficult because many stressors, challenges, and barriers exist, especially for those working on the “front lines.” But is not every setting a front line of sorts for someone? What would healthcare look like without nurses? It is time for permanent and positive change.
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief [email protected]
1. World Health Organization. State of the World's Nursing 2020: Investing in Education, Jobs and Leadership
. 2020. Geneva: Author. www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240003279
2. Amnesty International. Global: health workers silenced, exposed and attacked. 2020. www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/health-workers-rights-covid-report/
3. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity
. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2021.