Highlighting nurses and midwives’ commitment to delivering the highest quality care

Russian Nurses Association

The WHO European Region has 7.3 million nurses and midwives, who play a vital role in promoting health, preventing illness and providing care to expectant mothers and newborns, and to people in good and ill health across diverse settings.

On the occasions of International Day of the Midwife on 5 May and International Nurses Day on 12 May, the WHO Regional Office for Europe is highlighting these critically important professions by featuring the voices of nurses and midwives from around the Region. They share what it means to be a nurse, midwife, researcher, administrator, educator and/or leader, and how they are committed to delivering the highest quality care.

“To be a good nursing leader, one must actively advocate for patients and work to ensure they receive person-centred, compassionate care from a well-educated and skilful nursing workforce,” said Jean White, Chief Nursing Officer in the Nursing Directorate of the Welsh Government.

“It is very important for midwives to keep up with evidence-based research. That, together with confidence in one’s abilities and pride in one’s chosen profession, is essential if midwifery is to stay relevant in the future,” said Lauren Marie Grech, a third year student of midwifery at the University of Malta.

Follow the Regional Office’s social media channels listed below to hear more from nurses and midwives in the Region.

5 May also marks Hand Hygiene Day, WHO’s global annual call to action for health workers. This year the focus is on infection control and stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance through proper hand hygiene. Nurses and midwives are among the health-care workers with the highest compliance rate of hand hygiene practice. They play an essential role in protecting patients and themselves from health-care-associated infections, in combating antibiotic resistance and in promoting active hand hygiene among other health-care workers, patients and visitors.

Professional development and political will essential to supporting nurses and midwives

Over the last few decades, nursing and midwifery have increasingly developed into mature, complex, evidence-based and critically important professions. A wide range of skills is required to make an optimal impact on a population’s health. Nurses and midwives today recognize the need to work in interdisciplinary teams and take clinical decisions based on the latest research findings. They must also have access to solid continuing education to keep their skills updated. Today’s student nurses and midwives have the potential to continue in their professions for the next 30 to 40 years, and health systems must be clear about how they can implement effective retention policies to turn that potential into a reality.

Continued professional development and the backing of mentors and leaders, along with political will, are essential to supporting nurses and midwives through their years of practice.

Investing in the health workforce, including nurses and midwives, contributes to a number of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. SDG 3, on health, has a specific subtarget relating to health-care workers: to increase substantially the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce. It also contributes to SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable communities) and SDG 17 (partnership for the goals).

To strengthen political commitment to invest in skilled health workers, a framework for action towards a sustainable workforce is on the agenda for the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, to be held in September 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. The framework outlines policy options to optimize the performance, quality and impact of the health workforce.