One WHO objective is, “To educate, recruit, deploy and retain the right number of nursing and midwifery workforce with appropriate competencies, equipped with the necessary resources and governed by professional regulation.” The group further proposes to “Align investments and coordinate plans for development of nursing and midwifery in workforce management; in pre- and in-service education; in regulation; and in guaranteeing positive practice environments.”
Historically, WHO supported in-service education to a poorly trained, discouraged, inadequate nursing and midwifery workforce that included staff nurses, administrators and faculty. Very few resources have historically been directed toward pre-service education to enhance the quality of education available to train nurses and sustain competency of nursing faculty.
Perhaps this call that includes “pre-service” education is a promising sign – but since I have visited schools of nursing in Tanzania that had one desk, outdated text books, no technology only a few years ago, I am not too encouraged. The proof will be if WHO can actually convince its members, i.e. Ministers of Health, to work with Ministers of Education to improve the resources, quality, and capacity of nursing and midwifery programs to prepare qualified nurses to contribute to meeting the SDGs.
While very significant shortages of resources exist in the educational settings in many countries, inadequate staffing is also a significant challenge for nurses. Can the Ministers of Health address that inadequate staffing in many rural health clinics where one nurse/midwife works alone with few resources and almost no mentorship or support?
I returned from South Africa invigorated by the potential for nurses – especially Rutgers-trained nurses – to play an even larger role in high-quality healthcare, especially as the battle against HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and TB and also primary care. But as you can see, I remain concerned that some leading public health policy advocates do not fully understand the critical contributions that nurses can make, and consequently resources remain totally inadequate for the challenge ahead.