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A nod to Nightingale
World Health Organization designates 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife

Lisette Hilton
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In January 2019, the World Health Organization’s Executive Board designated
2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”
Last year, the global health organization started the
Nursing Now campaign
, which will end in 2020. Nursing Now aims to improve global health by raising nursing’s status, according to WHO.
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Nursing Now campaign was just the beginning
The year was chosen to honor the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. In 2020, the organization will release its first
State of the World’s Nursing Report
, describing the nursing workforce in WHO Member States, including the U.S., and assessing “fitness for purpose” relative to its 13th General Program of Work, 2019 to 2023 (GPW13) targets.
GPW13 is based on achieving three interconnected priorities by 2023, according to a
paper published last year in The Lancet

1 billion more people achieving universal health coverage
1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies
1 billion more people enjoying better
health and wellbeing

In 2020, WHO also will launch The State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 Report, which will report on progress and future challenges for delivering effective coverage and quality midwifery services.

The 2020 version will be the third such report, following iterations in 2011 and 2014.
This is a momentous time for nursing, according to Jennifer Dohrn, DNP, CNM, FAAN, associate professor of nursing and director of the Office of Global Initiatives and of the school's WHO Collaborating Center at Columbia University School of Nursing.

Dohrn said that in 2017, for example, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appointed registered nurse Elizabeth Iro as WHO’s chief nursing officer.
WHO designation helps nursing shine
The move opens the door for nursing’s voice to be heard in a powerful way, Dohrn said. “Nurses represent the majority of healthcare providers globally,” Dohrn said. “With the WHO Executive Board declaring 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we have an opportunity to tell and show people everywhere what we do and how we are central for people to be healthy. It can give new visibility to our profession, to the larger healthcare team and to the public. We can build on that visibility to push for involvement at leadership and policy bodies.” Dohrn has been working with an advisory committee for the State of the World’s Nursing Report to ensure nursing accomplishments at national and regional levels are documented. She also participated in writing
WHO’s global strategic directions for strengthening nursing and midwifery 2016-2020
, which gives nurses around the globe a useful plan for how they can promote and strengthen the nursing profession to improve the health of people everywhere.. The WHO campaign is an opportunity for nurses to be heard where they teach and practice, Dohrn said. “At Columbia Nursing, we are looking at ways to use this as a theme for some of our upcoming events,” she said. “With Dean Frazier’s vision and focus on social justice for health equity, we will look at how nursing education at our school teaches about health disparities and what the nursing profession needs to do to provide safe and quality care to enable everyone everywhere to achieve the highest attainable level of health. National nursing organizations and local chapters can take the banner of 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife to push for changes and reform for nursing practice. And nurses at hospital and community healthcare facilities can organize events to highlight nursing accomplishments and individual experts and heroes. Let’s show the faces of nursing, tell our stories and be heard. In reality, the health of our planet depends on this.” Designating 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife suggests nurses are being valued and appreciated for the work they do. That’s the culmination of a lifelong goal for Grant and others in the profession, Grant said. “We do evidence-based practice. We do research. We are involved in aspects of innovation and technology,” he said. “Those are things the average person may not picture a nurse being involved with, [yet,] we have been in that arena for quite some time. It’s just now being celebrated and fully understood — the contributions that we make. I think this is a very exciting time to be a nurse.” Nurse leaders in the U.S. and other WHO Member States are integral to ensure the quality and validity of data and participating in dialogue for the State of the World’s Nursing Report and The State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 Report, according to WHO literature.
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“Essentially, with WHO naming 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, what that will do for nurses not only in the United States but also across the world is to raise the level and profile of nursing — who we are, what we do, the contributions that we make to healthcare and to the people around the globe.” — Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, American Nurses Association president
With the announcement, Tedros fulfilled a commitment he made to
appoint a nurse to his senior team
, according to a WHO press release. “Nurses play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions around the world, but also in transforming health policies, promoting health in communities and supporting patients and families,” Tedros said in the release.
Jennifer Dohrn, DNP, CNM, FAAN
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Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer.