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2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife: Everything You Need to Know

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By Frieda Paton, M.Cur, RN

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife campaign to celebrate the world’s 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives who make up half of the global health workforce. This year, 2020, is dedicated to showcase the critical contribution of nurses and midwives to health care.

Furthermore, the campaign aims at highlighting the challenges that nurses face and the urgent need for governments to increase investment in the profession if they wish to achieve universal health coverage

Take a look at what 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife means, its importance, and how you can become involved in getting your profession the recognition and support it deserves.

Table of Contents

What is 2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife?

TheWorld Health Assembly, on which all governments are represented, voted to designate 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife last May 2019. Appropriately, 2020 also coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is recognized as the founder of modern nursing.

Achieving universal health care!
Achieving universal health care!

The World Health Organization (WHO), International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Confederation of Midwives, Nursing Now, and the United Nations Population Fund have partnered in running the campaign. The goal is to raise the profile and status of the nurses and midwives worldwide.

One of the most significant events will be the release of the WHO’s first-ever State of the World’s Nursing Report (SoWN) on World Health Day, April 6. This report will provide a comprehensive overview of the nursing workforce in every country. It will be a significant guide for future planning, advocacy, policy, and investment required to achieve the WHO aims of universal health coverage. 

As part of the celebration of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, nursing champions from across the world have also been invited to address the 73rd World Health Assembly on May 8-23. Many other events will take place throughout the year.

Investment in nurses and midwives

Invest in nurses and midwives to improve health, promote gender equality and support economic growth #Nurses2020 #Midwives2020 #SupportNursesandMidwives

The United Nations emphasized in a statement on January 1 that nurses and midwives were the backbones of health systems and that the agency would use 2020 to advocate for greater investment in these professions. “Key areas for investment include employing more specialist nurses, making midwives and nurses central to primary health care, and supporting them in health promotion and disease prevention.”

“In 2020, the world needs to do a better job in supporting #healthworkers: paying them, training them, and protecting them. During this year, the WHO and our partners will ask countries to #SupportNursesAndMidwives.” Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, tweeted on December 31.

“As the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife begins, ICN and Nursing Now are urging world leaders to make massive investments in nursing and midwifery to pave the way for a brighter future for health around the world,” wrote the ICN in a press statement at the close of 2019.

Why focus on nurses and midwives?

Comprising over 50% of the world’s health workforce nurses and midwives are the backbone of health care services. They work at all levels of health care – from primary health care services within communities through to the most specialized levels of hospital care.

It’s estimated that there will be a shortage of 9 million nurses by 2030. Health for all requires enough well-educated nurses, supported to work at their full potential and rewarded in line with the service and quality of care they provide. 

2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife Infographic
That’s why investment in nursing and midwifery is an urgent task.

The acceptance of the Astana Declaration in 2018 paved the way for all WHO member states to commit to universal health coverage through primary health care. Nurses are central to delivering primary health care to communities where they are often the client’s first, and sometimes only, contact health care services. Because nurses part of the community, they are also best placed to identify priority health care needs.

Furthermore, women represent 70% of the health workforce of whom a significant number are nurses. Recognizing nurses and breaking down long-standing socio-cultural barriers to the advancement of the profession will contribute towards achieving the sustainable development goal of gender equity (SDG5).

Strengthening the nursing and midwifery workforce also makes good financial sense and will contribute to economic development (SDG8). When communities are healthy, it saves resources on more expensive interventions, and healthier citizens ensure economic growth.

“Nurses and midwives can be the answer to so many of the world’s health problems, but first we must overcome professional, socio-cultural and economic barriers,” the WHO states in its campaign toolkit.

How you can get involved

Howard Catton, CEO of the ICN, emphasized that we need to use 2020 “to bust myths and traditional stereotypes about nursing, show the public the reality of 21st-century nursing and the amazing difference nurses can make when they are enabled to perform at the top of their game. Nurses are not the only solution to healthcare problems, but when they are properly supported and well educated, their contribution can be extraordinary.”

Nursing associations across the world, and Nursing Now groups, are planning hundreds of local events for 2020, and your support is essential. However, every nurse can also make their contribution, no matter how big or small, where they live and work.

“In 2020 we need nurses to share their stories, to tell their families, their friends and the communities that they live in what it is like to be a nurse, the pressures they are under, the challenges they face and the triumphs they witness,” Annette Kennedy, President of the ICN explained.  

There are many ways in which you can get involved, even if you live in the smallest of communities. In its Campaign Toolkit, the WHO suggests ways in which nurses, and members of the public, can get involved: 

Give out recognition awards or certificates

Organize events to recognize and give awards or certificate to nurses and midwives in your area. Remember to share news about the ceremonies on social media (#SupportNursesAndMidwives).

Organize or take part in public events and meetings

Involve other nurses, midwives, and health leaders. Don’t forget to invite the media to cover the event.

Create posters for the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

Display them at health care facilities and also in public places like shopping centers, schools, and libraries.

Get the WHO’s official campaign materials via their website here.

Get support from local leaders, celebrities, and artists.

Ask them to publicly promote the campaign at public appearances, during radio and television interviews, and on social media and their websites. Get artists involved in creating artworks – paintings, plays, or poems and stories – that focus on nursing and midwifery.

Get media coverage to get the message across to the public, politicians, and policymakers

Reporters are always looking for stories, but you need to tell them about the 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Give them ideas about coverage about prominent local nurses and nursing issues in your area. Remember to inform them of events well in advance.

Build and strengthen partnerships

Build and strengthen partnerships with organizations that share your goals, including nursing groups and associations, non-governmental organizations, health care advocates, and community leaders. The more voices, the better!

Join the social media thunderclap

Campaign Materials for 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife
Sample campaign materials for the 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

Join the campaign on social media using the hashtag #SupportNursesAndMidwives. Share stories, photos, and videos by and about nurses, which explain what nurses and midwives do, why they’re a vital part of the health workforce, and why greater investment in nursing is essential. You can start by adding the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo to your profile. Follow the WHO, ICN, ICM, and Nursing Now to keep up to date with events and share their messages.

Get moving!

Organize a “Walk the Talk – the Health for All Challenge in your community. These fun walks aim to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage everyone to get moving.

Join ICN’s Photo Contest

You can also jump in and take part in the ICN #NursingInFocus Photo Contest with photos that inspire and celebrate the impact and influence of nursing. The contest closes on March 1.

2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife Events

Campaign activities can be organized throughout 2020 but will have a greater impact if you arrange them on the key dates listed below: 

January 1Kick off
January 1 to March 1ICN’s #NursingInFocus Photo Contest
March 8International Women’s Day
March 7-964th Session of Commission of Women
April 7World Health Day
State of the World’s Nursing Report launch
April 24-30World Immunization Week
May 5Hand Hygiene Day
International Day of the Midwife
May 6-12National Nurses Week 2020
May 12International Nurses Day
200th Birth Anniversary of Florence Nightingale
May 17-22World Health Assembly
June 21-25ICM Congress
September 17World Patient Safety Day
September to OctoberWHO Regional Committee Meetings
October 26-28Nightingale 2020 Conference
September 22UN General Assembly
December 12UHC Day

Help shape the future of nursing

The 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife campaign is being directed by international organizations at the highest levels.

However, every nurse – and even members of the public – are being called on to support the campaign. Every contribution will help to get the profession the recognition it deserves and improve health care delivery to every community across the world.  

You can get more information on 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife campaign, and ideas on how you can contribute, on the WHO’s website and in its campaign toolkit.

Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

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