Today is Emergency Nurses Day, and after what has been 19 months of pandemic response in the United States, we have all observed first-hand the essential role our nurses play in taking care of our communities. There are over 4 million active nurses in the United States and more than 20 million nurses worldwide1. Most of us probably know at least one person in the field. Along with social workers and many other courageous caregivers, they have helped us throughout the recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic. A gesture of thanks is in order now more than ever.
But a simple thank you is not enough. Today is also a day to reflect on the toll that the pandemic has taken on nurses, who have tirelessly worked on the front lines ensuring that everybody gets the attention they need. Nursing is a challenging profession physically, mentally, and emotionally. Short-staffing and the consequent demand to work overtime are commonplace, and such scenarios can result in exhaustion and mistakes. But that is not the only concern for nurses. They often must contend with less-discussed challenges like back injuries and violent patient behavior.
The pandemic has also highlighted the systemic racism in our nation’s healthcare system. In July, 2020, the American Nurses Foundation conducted a survey that identified Black and Hispanic/Latino nurses as more likely to be placed in risky situations caring for COVID-19 patients than their White counterparts (58% and 63% as compared to 49%). They were also twice as likely to have been diagnosed with COVID-19 themselves (10% and 11% vs. 5%).
The pandemic has only underlined the need for more significant investment in improving education, professional development, and employment conditions for nurses. This is why a ground-breaking campaign called Nursing Now was established in 2018 to ensure health improvement globally by raising the status of nursing, influencing policymakers, and advocating for more nurses in leadership positions.
There is already a shortage of nurses today, and according to Nursing Now’s website, nine million more nurses and midwives will be needed by 2030. There’s plenty to be done to prepare for the challenges that many countries worldwide face in ensuring quality health care. According to the organization, some of the issues that are putting health systems under strain include scarce resources, the rising burden of chronic diseases, and the impact of emerging factors, such as climate change, migration, and aging populations.
The Nursing Now campaign was developed in response to the findings of the Triple Impact report, which concluded that as well as improving health globally, empowering nurses would contribute to improved gender equality and stronger economies.
Nursing Now plans to reach 150 countries and 100,000 nurses and midwives by the end of 2022. Nursing Now USA is a collaboration established by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, the American Nurses Association, and the US Public Health Service Chief Nurse Officer.
Do you know any nurses? Take time today to thank them for their service. If you want to learn more about the history of one nursing organization that has consistently offered selfless service for over 100 years, check out our American Red Cross Appreciation article.
1 National Council of State Boards of Nursing [NCSBN], 2020