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2020 Is the Year of the Nurse

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820, making 2020 the 200th anniversary of the trailblazer’s birth. In recognition of Nightingale’s contributions to the nursing profession, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

In the United States, the American Nurses Association (ANA) is promoting 2020 as the Year of the Nurse with a focus on fostering inclusivity and participation of all nurses, including midwives.

What Is the Importance of This Campaign?

WHO describes the nurses constituting half of the global health workforce as “the cornerstone of the strong, resilient health systems needed to achieve universal health coverage.”

To grasp the full meaning of the Year of the Nurse, it is important to acknowledge the unforeseen challenges nurses are facing in 2020.

On an ordinary day, nursing is one of the most stressful jobs in existence. However, 2020 has been anything but ordinary. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic moved rapidly, placing an unprecedented demand on healthcare systems. As the coronavirus made its way around the country, nurses continued to staff the frontlines of patient care at hospitals — with a much greater demand adding to the ongoing nursing shortage.

Where Does Advocacy Come In?

As nurses provide heroic care during an unprecedented public health crisis, the Year of the Nurse takes on new meaning. According to WHO, nurses and midwives:

  • Represent nearly 50% of the healthcare workforce
  • Are often the first, if not only, point of contact for patients
  • Commonly deal with challenging conditions, but are undervalued

To achieve the goal of health for all by 2030, the world needs an additional nine million nurses and midwives.

These points highlight the need for advocacy in strengthening the nursing and midwifery workforce. For example, the American Nurses Association (ANA) is advocating at the federal level for nurse safety during the COVID-19 outbreak. A severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is just one example of unacceptable conditions for nurses.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., described nurses and midwives as the “backbone of every health system.” As part of the Year of the Nurse, he has called for all countries to “invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all.”

Speaking at the International Council of Nurses 2019 Congress, Dr. Ghebreyesus called on every country to “engage in policy dialogue and make evidence-based decisions on how and where to invest in the nursing workforce.” Low-resource settings that create high-risk situations for both patients and nurses is one example. Discrimination and abuse in the workplace is another.

Whether in everyday nursing care or in times of extraordinary need, the nursing workforce is critical to healthcare transformation. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can help RNs prepare for effective leadership at all levels.

For RNs who want to advance to Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) roles, earning a BSN is the first step. A convenient online format, such as with the accelerated RN to BSN at Northern Kentucky University, can give RNs the flexibility they need to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Learn more about NKU’s online RN to BSN program.


American Nurses Association: COVID-19 Resource Center 2020 Year of the Nurse: Midwives

Word Health Organization (WHO): International Council of Nurses 2019 Congress

WHO: Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020

WHO: Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020 – Campaign Materials

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