WHO Assembly Adopts Global Strategy To Strengthen Nursing and Midwifery


The final report, “Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery (SDNM) 2021-2025,” is now available. This report and an accompanying resolution were adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly (WHA) earlier this year. 

This means that the governments of all member states have pledged to support the recommendations which require committed investment in nursing. It is believed that this was the first time a global strategy to strengthen the nursing workforce had been adopted by the Assembly.

The strategic directions for nursing

The recommendations made in the “Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery (SDNM) 2021-2025” report were derived from the evidence provided by the State of the World’s Nursing Report (2020) and the State of the World’s Midwifery Report (2021). 

The prioritized policy directions contained in the report were developed from input by over 600 nursing and midwifery leaders from across the world. The SDNM covers four areas – nursing education, jobs, leadership, and service delivery.  There is a strategic direction, and two to four policy priorities were for each of the above areas. 

  • In education, the emphasis is on educating enough knowledgeable and competent nurses in every country to meet the demands of its national health systems. 
  • Regarding jobs, the emphasis is on ensuring that enough nursing staff is available within health services by creating jobs and giving attention to effective recruitment and retention. The international mobility of nurses should be managed ethically. 
  • To strengthen nursing leadership, the proportion of nurses in senior leadership positions should be increased.  Attention should also be given to developing the leadership skills of the next generation of nurses.
  • For optimum service delivery, regulatory and workplace support systems should enable nurses and midwives to work to the full extent of their education and training. 

The WHA resolution on strengthening nursing and midwifery

The SDNM report and the WHA resolution spell out further details on what needs to be done to achieve the above priorities.


The preamble to the resolution emphasizes the current global shortage and maldistribution of the nursing and midwifery workforce. It also emphasizes the crucial contribution of nurses and midwives in delivering comprehensive health services and achieving the WHO Sustainable Development Goals. 

The resolution calls on WHO member states to strengthen nursing and midwifery in their countries by implementing the policy priorities of the SDNM, as relevant to their national health and socio-economic development strategies. 

Nurses to hold governments to account

Annette Kennedy, president of the ICN, emphasized a significant moment when the resolution was adopted by the WHA.  

“It reflected a recognition of the essential contribution of our professions to the current pandemic and to the state of global health and healthcare,” Kennedy wrote.  “It is now vital that nursing associations and all nurses hold their governments to account to ensure that WHO’s global nursing and midwifery strategy is implemented. This requires countries to invest in nurses and nursing and means they must work in partnership with nurses in all areas of health care policy so that the lessons of this terrible pandemic, and the sacrifices of nurses and healthcare workers, will not have been in vain.”


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.