WHO/Europe has launched a new roadmap to support countries in the WHO European Region in strengthening the nursing and midwifery professions, emphasizing the importance of placing nurses and midwives on the political agenda.
As governments continue to rebuild their health systems, including their health workforces, following the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that nurses and midwives are included will be essential. Nurses and midwives account for the largest single group of health professionals and are responsible for 90% of contacts between patients and health professionals.
“Representing the largest segment of the health workforce, we would be amiss not to prioritize nurses and midwives in our policies, strategies and work plans,” said Dr Natasha Azzopardi Muscat, Director of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO/Europe, at the Roadmap’s launch event on 10 December. “We must work together to ensure that our nursing and midwifery workforce is strong, resilient, fit for purpose and valued.”
The new “Roadmap to guide implementation of the Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery in the WHO European Region” was conceived and developed in close collaboration with nursing and midwifery stakeholders. These include WHO collaborating centres for nursing and midwifery, the European Forum of National Nursing and Midwifery Associations, and government chief nursing and midwifery officers.
The Roadmap prioritizes the importance of giving back to nurses and midwives in the Region for the dedication and passion with which they continue to care for populations despite the many challenges and limitations they face.
“The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in 2020 and 2021’s Year of Health and Care Workers gave us an opportunity to express gratitude and recognize the efforts of our frontline workers,” said Ms Margrieta Langins, Nursing and Midwifery Regional Policy Adviser at WHO/Europe. “The Roadmap goes a step further by identifying specific actions to strengthen this important part of our health workforce.”
WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer Ms Elizabeth Iro added, “The regional Roadmap exemplifies excellent collaboration between the work we do at WHO headquarters and our regional counterparts.”
In September 2021, the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, tasked to rethink health policies in the light of pandemics, made an unequivocal call to governments and policy-makers to invest in nurses and midwives. The Commission underlined the need to create conditions not only to attract more people to the professions, but also to retain them.
Advancing the European Programme of Work
The Roadmap reflects the priorities of the European Programme of Work 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe” to set out activities in the 4 focus areas (education, service delivery, jobs and leadership) of the WHO Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021–2025.
“The European Programme of Work emphasizes the importance of strong partnerships across sectors, various organizations and levels of governments. The implementation of the Roadmap’s activities will depend on stakeholder dialogues at different levels and the introduction of coordinated approaches to strengthening nursing and midwifery,” explained Ms Langins.
Putting nurses and midwives at the heart of policy discussions
Ms Rachel Kenna is the Chief Nursing Officer of Ireland and one of the active members of the hub of nominated chief nursing officers in the Region. Speaking at the Roadmap launch, she welcomed the new document and explained how it will support her and her peers’ work.
“It will support the achievement of many aspects of my role as Chief Nursing Officer and my work across sectors to influence wider policy from a nursing and midwifery perspective,” she said. “I work closely with departments of education, public pay, children and policy for people with disabilities, but also across health services on the frontline, with regulators but also many other agencies to inform the development of policies and policy implementation.”