It is a day for us all to honour the tireless efforts of nurses, as they play pivotal roles in providing health care. From cradle to grave, nurses are unsung heroes who: welcome us to this world; take care of us when we are sick or injured; provide preventive and promotive health to keep us from falling ill, and; sadly, watch when patients they have nursed with much love pass away.
This requires a lot of hard work, and long hour shifts filled with physical, psychological and emotional stress. We acknowledge the invaluable contribution of nurses and midwives to our wellbeing by celebrating them on 12 May.
As we appreciate nurses, the Day also presents an opportunity for drawing attention to thematic issues of concern for the nursing profession and improvement of health care delivery. The theme of the 2017 International Nurses Day is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage provide a challenge as well as an opportunity to continue to enhance the contribution of nursing and midwifery to their achievement.” Nurses have a critical role in the delivery of health services and in strengthening the health system. As the largest single cadre of health professionals, they are central in ensuring people-centred universal health care.
Meanwhile, global health workforce shortages persist. It is estimated that there could be a shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030, including nurses, if action is not taken now. That would make achieving the Sustainable Development Goals a very tall order.
To address this challenge Mr Ban Ki-Moon, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, set up last year a High-Level Panel on Health Employment and Economic Growth. The recommendations of the panel, where PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli represented the trade union movement, health workers and public services, have been embodied in a Five-Year Implementation Plan for Health Employment and Economic Growth.
This, in conjunction with the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health; Workforce 2030, and the Global Strategic Directions for Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery 2016-2020, are international instruments of importance in providing nurses with a leading voice and place towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Governments are expected to invest in improving employment and decent work in the health sector, including for nurses. This would entail:
Ensuring an educated, competent and motivated nursing and midwifery workforce within effective and responsive health systems at all levels and in different settings; optimizing policy development, effective leadership, management and governance; working together to maximize the capacities and potentials of nurses and midwives through intra- and inter-professional collaborative partnerships, education and continuing professional development, and; mobilizing political will to invest in building effective evidence-based nursing and midwifery workforce development.
The ILO Tripartite Meeting on Improving Employment and Working Conditions in the Health Services held on 24 – 28 April was an arena for PSI to stand up for nurses, once again. The official delegates of the Workers’ group led by the PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli included leaders of nurses’ unions from the Africa and Arab countries, Asia Pacific and Interamerican regions.
At the meeting the Workers’ group called for a General Survey of the ILO Nursing Personnel Convention, 1977 (No. 149). There are only 42 countries that have so far ratified this important International Labour Standard.
The conclusions of the meeting include a commitment by the International Labour Office to “promote ratification and effective implementation of international labour standards relevant to the health services sector.” These would include C.149 which PSI would diligently pursue with its affiliates in countries which have not ratified or are not properly implementing the Convention.
With the megaphone of our combination as the working class - trade unions binding us -, nurses’ voices will continue to play a leading role in our collective struggle for a better world, with public health for all.