Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services. These are the people who devote their lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting everyday essential health needs.
They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities.
The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
That’s why the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
Strengthening nursing and midwifery to achieve health for all
A strong nursing and midwifery workforce is key to the achievement of universal health coverage.
Educating nurses and midwives to international standards makes economic sense. It saves resources by reducing the need for costly and unnecessary interventions and increases quality of care and health for all.
Strengthening nursing and midwifery – and ensuring that nurses and midwives are enabled to work to their full potential – is one of the most important things we can do to achieve universal health coverage and improve health globally.
But too often nurses and midwives are undervalued and unable to fulfill their true potential. In 2020 we aim to ensure that all nurses and midwives operate in an environment where they are safe from harm, respected by medical colleagues and community members, have access to a functioning health-care service and where their work is integrated with other health-care professionals.
By developing nursing and midwifery, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth.
Strengthening nursing and midwifery will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity (SDG5), contributing to economic development (SDG8) and supporting other Sustainable Development Goals.
Boost nursing and midwifery leadership and influence to improve health services
Nurses and midwives are already advocates and innovators in their communities, clinics, hospitals and in the health care system. But they must also be properly valued and represented in health leadership roles where they can guide health policy and investment.
Nurses and midwives can be the answer to so many of the world’s health problems but first we must overcome professional, socio-cultural and economic barriers.
Commit political will and funding to improve nursing and midwifery
Universal health coverage is a political choice. So is domestic investment in nursing and midwifery.
Five key investment areas
- Invest in more nurse-led and midwife-led services enabling nurses and midwives to work to their full potential
- Employ more specialist nurses
- Make midwives and nurses central to primary health care, providing services and supervising community health workers
- Support nurses and midwives in health promotion and disease prevention
- Invest in nursing and midwifery leadership
Link to the related WHO site:
Link to WHO fact sheet on Nursing and Midwifery: