Photo story - Training courses help nurses in Poland take on new and expanded roles in primary care

Over a third of Poland’s noncommunicable disease (NCD) burden can be attributed to risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet and low physical activity. Obesity rates are also above the European Union average.

Furthermore, the country is struggling to respond to the increasing health needs of a rapidly ageing population with multiple long-term conditions.

In Poland as elsewhere, primary health-care professionals, including nurses, are best placed to identify NCD risk factors; lead the process of prevention by conducting preventive tests and screenings; educate patients on managing their health; and care effectively for older people.

With this in view, over the last 13 years Poland has strengthened its commitment to primary health care and the nursing workforce by raising basic training to graduate and postgraduate levels, by introducing nurse-initiated prescribing of medicines, by setting up new nursing profiles of family nurses and palliative care nurses, and by establishing nurse-led practices.

These changes have helped to improve health outcomes and increased the role that primary health care plays in taking care of patients in the community, as close to their homes as possible.

In particular, the expanded roles for nurses – including the ability to prescribe medication – are helping to provide patients with continuous access to health services and reduce interruptions in their treatments. Ultimately, patients report higher levels of satisfaction with the care they receive.

In cooperation with the Supreme Council of Nurses and Midwives and the National Trade Union of Nurses and Midwives, the Ministry of Health of Poland has also set out to improve working conditions, staffing arrangements, and the salaries and education of nurses, as outlined in its strategy for the development of nursing and midwifery.

Growing interest in the nursing profession

Recent data show that the number of nurses in the health-care system is increasing every year. Universities also report a growing interest in the profession. According to data from the Supreme Council of Nurses and Midwives, the number of nurses has gone up from 218 000 in 2014 to 235 000 in 2018.

The following photo story illustrates some of the major changes that have been implemented in Poland in recent years. It shows how these changes have improved nurses’ ability to deliver appropriate, timely and effective care; their satisfaction and willingness to work in primary care; and their ability to coordinate services with other health professionals.