A new report, published today by the International Centre for Nurse Migration (ICNM) in partnership with CGFNS International, Inc. and ICN titled Sustain and Retain in 2022 and Beyond, has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic has made the fragile state of the global nursing workforce much worse, putting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) aim of Universal Health Coverage at serious risk. It suggests up to 13 million more nurses will be required over the next decade, the equivalent of almost half of the world’s current 28 million-strong workforce.
The report provides a blueprint for what needs to be done at the national and international level to guide nursing workforce planning globally. It says countries should commit to prioritising nurses for vaccinations, provide safe staffing levels, expand their domestic nurse education systems, increase the attractiveness of nursing careers for women and men, adhere to ethical international recruitment standards, and monitor countries’ ability to be self-sufficient to meet their nursing workforce requirements.
International Council of Nurses (ICN) Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton, who co-authored the report, said:
“The WHO’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife in 2020 and last year’s International Year of the Health Care Worker were an important starting point in recognising the true value of nurses and other health workers, but it simply was not enough. This is a global health crisis, and it requires a fully funded and actionable 10-year plan to support and strengthen nurses and the health and care workforce to deliver health for all.”
CGFNS President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Franklin A. Shaffer, another co-author of the report, added:
“We can anticipate that there will be a migration tsunami as more than ever before, countries around the world turn to the international nursing supply to meet their workforce needs. The pre-existing unequal distribution of nurses around the world will be exacerbated by large-scale international recruitment to high-income countries as they look for a ‘quick fix’ solution to solving their nursing shortages, which will only widen inequalities in access to healthcare globally.”
Lead author of the report, Professor James Buchan of the University of Technology Sydney, (UTS) and the University of Edinburgh, said:
“COVID-19 has had a terrible impact on the nursing workforce in terms of the personal effect it has had on individual nurses, and the problems it has exposed within many healthcare systems. Pre-existing shortages exacerbated the impact of the pandemic, and burned-out nurses are leaving because they cannot carry on any longer. Governments have not reacted effectively to the growing worldwide shortage of nurses, and now they must respond to the pandemic, which is an alarming game-changer that requires immediate action.”
The report says a long-term plan is needed to stem the tide of those leaving nursing because of the additional stresses resulting from COVID-19 and to create a new generation of nurses to grow the profession to meet increased future demands of an aging global population.
ICN President Pamela Cipriano said:
“Nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic for two years now. The influence they have had on the survival and health of the people they serve has been enormous. Despite enduring heavy emotional and physical burdens of providing care for their patients and communities, they have shown great resilience. But resiliency has its limits.”
According to Dr. Shaffer: “Ethical and properly monitored international migration will always provide individual nurses with an opportunity to develop their careers and follow their dreams. But as this report shows, governments must act quickly to ensure that people everywhere have access to nursing expertise whenever they need it. CGFNS and the ICNM can help governments to ensure that international recruitment is ethical and that both the recruiting countries and the nurses involved can benefit from the process.”