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Raising profile of nursing and midwifery is key for global health improvement

Written by on 30th September 2021

A new report published by Public Health Wales today, identifies that recognising and championing nursing on a global scale is essential to improving health for all.

The report identifies that nurses and midwives are at the heart of most health teams, playing a crucial role in improving and transforming health services, promoting health and preventing and reducing the impact of disease. Nurses and midwives ensure that the care being delivered is compassionate and of a high standard, which all patients and citizens should expect to receive.

The ‘Nursing Now’ global campaign originated from the Triple Impact report which argued that strengthening nursing would make a major contribution to three of the Sustainable Development Goals: Improved Health, greater gender equity and economic development.  The campaign was launched in 2018 and endorsed by the World Health Organisation and International Council of Nurses and was a call to action at a local and global level promoting opportunities to raise the profile of nursing across a range themes, such as advanced and innovative practice, research capacity, leadership development to name but a few.

The campaign led to the WHO designating 2020 the Year of the Nurse and the publication of the first State of the World’s Nursing report.

It could not have been predicted that 2020 would bring the roles of Nurses and Midwives in the spot light, with the significant demands placed on them and other health workers by the impact of Coronavirus, highlighting even more the essential role they play every day in improving and protecting health. The campaign strongly encouraged local and national involvement set in the context of individual countries and settings.

In Wales the Chief Nursing Officer at this time (Professor Jean White) asked Public Health Wales to establish a cross organisational Nursing Now group, to ensure that Wales played its part in the global efforts. It was important that ‘Nursing Now’ in Wales was set in the context of our Welsh policy context such as ‘A Healthier Wales’.

The steering group was set up in 2019 by Public Health Wales on request from the Welsh Government, with the aim of building resilience, compassion and leadership in Wales’ nursing and midwifery sectors and using this as an example to raise the industry’s profile on an international level.

Rhiannon Beaumont Wood, Chair of Nursing Now/Cymru Wales and Executive Director Quality, Nursing & Allied Health Professionals, Public Health Wales, said:

“Countries around the world are facing huge challenges in ensuring quality healthcare. Coronavirus, scarce resources, the rising burden of chronic diseases, and the impact of issues such as climate change, migration and ageing populations are putting health systems under strain

“Furthermore, the global shortage of health workers means there simply are not enough professionals trained to help tackle these threats, and this includes nurses – 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed by 2030.”

The group developed and agreed five themes to guide the work of the Nursing Now campaign in Wales, with all outcomes resulting in better health for all. These were:

  1. Building resilience and promoting wellbeing in students and registrants
  2. Preparing students and supporting nurses and midwives to recognise their role and responsibility in contributing to prevention, improving individual and population health outcomes
  3. To actively encourage and increase diversity in nursing and midwifery to positively influence inclusion of underrepresented groups promoting social and economic developments
  4. Strengthening and building leadership and influencing capability at all levels
  5. Increasing and improving dissemination of effective and innovative practice in nursing to drive consistency in system wide adoption.

An example of how this has worked in practise is in increasing the number of learning Disability Specialist nurses in Wales. Through collaborative working with Bangor University and University of South Wales, opportunities for learning disability nursing courses have been increased by providing two intakes onto their programmes, widening access, opening up opportunities, and relieving pressure on placements. This has enabled an improvement in uptake to learning disability nursing courses of 25 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

Rhiannon continued: “Not only do we need more nurses and midwives, we need to develop new and innovative types of services. The future of healthcare will be more community and home-based, more holistic and people-centred, with increased focus on prevention and making better use of technology. This means that nurses have an even greater role to play in the healthcare of tomorrow. However, maximising nurses’ contributions will require that they are properly deployed, valued and included in policy and decision-making.

“Investing to improve nurses’ working conditions, training and leadership skills can deliver the triple impact of improving health, as well as gender equality and strengthening local economies. Maximising the potential of nurses and midwives is vital to achieving the goal of universal health coverage, making sure everyone, everywhere, has access to quality healthcare services.

“Health is our most important asset and we need to take care of it with and through our communities.”

Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Sue Tranka, said: “As Wales’ new Chief Nursing Officer, I would like to thank everyone involved in the production of this important report. It really highlights the critical role of nurses and midwives have in our society and within our communities and what they can achieve when driving and sharing best practice and transforming services to benefit patients in Wales.

“Nurses and midwives are the beating heart of our health system, and this publication celebrates their achievements in the face of adversity. It also inspires a renewed vision for nursing education and research, leadership and inclusion, and creating the conditions to support the wellbeing of nurses and midwives. I look forward to building on this with partners in the future.”

Nursing Now Wales/Cymru is made up of representation from the NHS Wales organisations, nurse leaders from Welsh Universities, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and third sector representatives.