2020 will be the ‘Year of the Nurse,’ World Health Organization announces

5 facts about the U.S. nursing shortage

The World Health Organization executive board recently designated the year 2020 as the "Year of the Nurse and midwife," honoring the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

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WHO is also launching the first State of the World’s Nursing report in 2020, an assessment of the nursing workforce in member states, and is a partner on a related midwifery report. Part of a larger campaign to strengthen universal health coverage, the Nursing Now! Campaign seeks to raise “the status of nursing” by “supporting country-level dissemination and policy dialogue around the State of the World’s Nursing report,” according to the global organization.

According to WHO, nurses and midwives account for more than 50 percent of the global health workforce, and the shortage of such workers represents more than 50 percent of the current shortage overall.

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"Nurses play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention and delivering primary and community care. They provide care in emergency settings and will be key to the achievement of universal health coverage," the agency states on its website. Investing in nurses and midwives is also economically smart—research from the United Kingdom has found "investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth."

Strengthening these sectors will also help promote gender equity, according to WHO. Seventy percent of the global health and social workforce are women.

Read more about the 2020 initiatives at who.int.