Nurse shortage declared global health emergency

The International Council of Nurses has declared nurse shortages to be a global health emergency, with 13 million nurses needing to be replaced globally in the coming years.

The report, "Recover to Rebuild: Investing in the Nursing Workforce for Health System Effectiveness," was published in March. It noted that health systems need to rebuild and invest in "redeploying resources to other parts of the health system to enable the backlog of non-COVID-19 care to be dealt with."

"The underlying issue … is to recognize that for many working nurses this is not a short-term, one-off 'acute' episode or some obscure or distant phenomenon — it is pervasive and personal. It has been a relentless, intense and a continuing drain on nurses' energy, morale, and physical and mental health," the report said.

The council encourages health systems to give proper attention to the effect their rebuilding decisions will have on individual nurses and the workforce.

"If policymakers focus only at the system level and ignore the impact on nurses, then nurse retention and longer-term supply will worsen," the report said. "It is now three years since the pandemic first became apparent, but there is already a substantial and growing evidence base on the nurse workforce impact." 

The risk of high workload, stress and burnout will determine the sustainability of the nursing workforce, the report noted.

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