Nursing and midwifery leaders – I am listening

November 16, 2017
By Jennifer Trainor, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health


Global Approaches to Nursing and Midwifery Planning to Optimize Workforce Performance-An International Perspective brought together nursing leaders from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Norway, and Canada, during the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health. Representatives presented their research and policy strategies to improve staffing, retention, empowerment, and the global advancement of the nursing and midwifery role.

Nursing and midwifery account for a large proportion of the health care sector. The current 20.7 million nurses and midwives, of 43.5 million health workers, are vital in providing important health services. Numerous countries have reported that nurses and midwives represent over 50% of their health workers (WHO, 2016). While it may appear that the nursing and midwifery profession is strong and stable, this perception could not be further from reality. 27% of WHO member states have disclosed to having less than one nursing and midwifery staff member per 1000 people, and 48% reported to having less than three per 1000 people. These numbers reflect a potential shortage of 7.6 million qualified nurses and midwives by 2030. While this overall number will be a reduction from the current global shortage of nine million, the shortages in some countries will actually get worse. Countries in Africa and South-East Asia, who are already struggling with finding skilled health workers, will face the brunt of the shortage (WHO 2017).

These forums are crucial to give nursing leaders a platform to present what has worked, and what has not, in the areas of research and policy development in nursing and midwifery. For my part, as a registered nurse, I want to know what is being done globally to strengthen and invest in the potential of the workforce. These policies affect my future as a nursing professional. I have witnessed and felt the effects of nursing shortages in both lower and higher income countries: Poor staffing, lower pay, high patient-to-nurse ratios, and constant budget cuts. All lead to nursing burnout, low morale, and poor retention. I have seen it. I have lived it. It is not only the nurse or midwife who suffers – ultimately, the patients themselves suffer.

The dialogue must continue. Global leaders in nursing and midwifery from all points on the globe need to continue with their efforts to come together and discuss their strategy successes and failures, especially with nurses and midwives who give direct patient care. In the end, we are all working towards a common goal. As Annette Kennedy, President of the International Council of Nurses, concluded the session, her message was clear:

We have to state very clearly to our governments and to our departments, no matter which country you’re in, that they have to invest in the workforce. Otherwise, there will be no healthy people to actually work.


November 16th, 2017


Jennifer Trainor is a registered nurse from Montreal, Canada, with experience in neonatal and obstetrical nursing. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Nursing & Midwifery and Global Health at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, with a focus in maternal and child health. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys SCUBA diving and horseback riding.



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