World Health Day 2020: Why becoming a nurse is not as easy as you might think
World Health Day 2020 is dedicated to the celebration of nurses and midwives, whose immense role in healthcare is frequently forgotten.
We often undervalue the role of nurses in our healthcare system - true, they sometimes stand in the background while doctors diagnose diseases, prescribe medicines and conduct surgeries. But nurses actually play a vital role in helping people get better.
The most relevant example right now is, of course, that of the COVID-19 pandemic, the treatment of which essentially requires the consistent contribution of nurses in hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities across the globe. World Health Day 2020, which has coincidentally fallen smack in the middle of this global public health emergency, is dedicated to the celebration of nurses and midwives, whose immense role in healthcare is frequently forgotten.
Why do we need more nurses?
According to the World Health Organization, 70% of the health and social workforce are women, and nurses and midwives form a large portion of this percentage. This huge workforce focuses on giving primary care to patients of all sorts of diseases all over the world, even in rural, marginalised or hinterland communities where doctors and state healthcare facilities are unable to reach. Culturally, the role of nurses — especially in the care of newborns, babies, the sick and the elderly — is of significance all over the world.
And while nurses are constantly in demand, the world is essentially falling short of them constantly. According to the WHO’s Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health estimates in 2018, a shortage of 5.7 million nurses was to be expected by 2030. The countries accounting for the largest shortages in these estimates were Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. A primary cause of this shortage is supposed to be due to low-income levels, but the work environment, lack of leadership roles and infrastructural support also play a role in this shortage.
Why is nursing a tough gig?
The shortage of nurses, while estimated by the WHO for 2030, is hitting the global healthcare system sorely during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be sure, being a nurse is not an easy job anyway, and being on the frontlines during a pandemic can take its toll. Here’s a closer look at what their job entails and what it takes to get there:
- Nurses have to go through a rigorous training and education process. In India itself, a General Nursing and Midwifery course takes three years, while a Bachelor’s degree in basic nursing can take four years. It takes only slightly longer than that to finish an MBBS degree in India.
- Nurses provide primary care to all patients. This means that they have to constantly monitor patients, aid them in movement, administer medications timely, and take every possible precaution until the illness subsides. This is a job that requires constant attention, compassion and care - which is not everybody’s cup of tea.
- Nurses form the bridge between doctors and patients, especially in hospitals where doctors do the rounds between a number of patients.
- Nurses are the ones primarily responsible for maintaining hygiene standards for the patient and his or her surroundings. This means ensuring that patients and their visitors follow safe hygiene practices.
- Nurses are expected to be trustworthy. In most communities, this trust is hard-earned through years of service.
- Because nurses are usually from local communities and end up serving the same, they have community information which can be of vital importance during disease outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics. During tough times like these, nurses can rely on their bonds with the local community to provide healthcare information.
- Nurses, for all the things that they do, rarely get the respect they deserve. They don't even come close to being given the same standard of appreciation, leading roles and responsibilities that doctors are given, despite being the primary caregiver.
WHO’s call for key investments to be made to improve nursing:
Because of all these reasons, the WHO believes that investments should be made all over the world to increase the number of nurses and to make the situation of current nurses much better. The following are some of the key areas the WHO recommends all nations to make rapid investments in:
- Accelerate investments in nursing and midwifery education.
- Employ more specialist nurses.
- Invest in the leadership skills of nurses and midwives.
- Make midwives and nurses the heart of primary health care.
- Support nurses and midwives in delivering health promotion and disease prevention.
For more information, read our article on How to avoid getting COVID-19 infection if you are a healthcare worker.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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