Nursing is a vital profession that contributes to the health and well-being of people around the world. Nurses provide care in various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, homes, and communities, and they work with diverse populations, from newborns to the elderly. Nurses also play a key role in addressing the global health challenges and opportunities that affect humanity, such as infectious diseases, chronic conditions, environmental issues, social determinants of health, and health equity. In this article, we will explore the role of nursing in the global community, and how nurses can make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people.
Nursing and Global Health
Global health is defined as “the area of study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide” (Koplan et al. 2009). Global health encompasses both the health of individuals and populations, as well as the interactions between health and other factors, such as politics, economics, culture, and environment. Global health also recognizes the interdependence and interconnectedness of health across countries and regions, and the need for collective action and collaboration to address health challenges.
Nursing is integral to the definition and practice of global health. Nurses are the largest and most trusted group of health professionals in the world, accounting for nearly 50% of the global health workforce (WHO 2022). Nurses have the knowledge, skills, and values to provide quality, holistic, and person-centered care to people of all ages, backgrounds, and needs. Nurses also have the expertise and experience to promote health, prevent disease, and respond to emergencies in various contexts and settings. Moreover, nurses have the leadership and advocacy skills to influence health policies, systems, and outcomes at local, national, and global levels.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), four policy focus areas can help countries to strengthen nursing and midwifery, and ensure that nurses and midwives optimally contribute to achieving universal health coverage and other population health goals. These are education, jobs, leadership, and service delivery (WHO 2021). Each of these areas has a strategic direction and a set of policy priorities that can guide the development and implementation of nursing and midwifery interventions. Some examples of these interventions are:
- Education: Increasing the number and quality of nursing and midwifery education programs, ensuring that they are aligned with population health needs and competencies, and facilitating the mobility and recognition of nursing and midwifery qualifications across countries and regions.
- Jobs: Creating and filling nursing and midwifery jobs, managing migration and retention of nurses and midwives, and providing fair and decent working conditions, pay, and recognition for nurses and midwives.
- Leadership: Strengthening nursing and midwifery leadership throughout health and academic systems, supporting the development and participation of nursing and midwifery associations and networks, and enhancing the visibility and voice of nurses and midwives in health decision-making and governance.
- Service delivery: Ensuring that nurses and midwives are supported, respected, protected, motivated, and equipped to safely and optimally contribute in their service delivery settings, expanding the scope and autonomy of nursing and midwifery practice, and fostering interprofessional collaboration and teamwork among health workers.
Investing in nursing and midwifery is not only good for health, but also for the economy and society. The report of the UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth concluded that investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth (UN 2016). Furthermore, nursing and midwifery occupations represent a significant share of the female workforce and thus can help to empower women and girls and advance gender equality and social justice.
Nursing and Community Health
Community health is a nursing specialty that moves health care from the acute setting into the community-based health sector. Community health nurses provide care to individuals, families, and groups in their homes and neighborhoods, as well as in schools, workplaces, and other community settings. Community health nurses also work with communities to assess their health needs, identify their strengths and resources, and plan and implement health promotion and disease prevention programs and activities. Community health nursing is based on the principles of primary health care, which include accessibility, affordability, appropriateness, and participation of the people in their health (WHO 1978).
Community health nursing is an essential component of global health, as it addresses the social and environmental determinants of health and the health needs and priorities of the people. Community health nursing also contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets that aim to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all by 2030 (UN 2015). Some of the SDGs that are directly or indirectly related to community health nursing are:
- SDG 1: No poverty. Community health nurses can help to reduce poverty by providing health education, counseling, and referrals to social and economic services, and by advocating for policies and programs that address the root causes and consequences of poverty.
- SDG 2: Zero hunger. Community health nurses can help to prevent and treat malnutrition and hunger by providing nutrition assessment, education, and support, and by collaborating with food security and agriculture initiatives.
- SDG 3: Good health and well-being. Community health nurses can help to improve health and well-being by providing comprehensive, integrated, and continuous care across the lifespan, and by addressing the physical, mental, and social aspects of health.
- SDG 4: Quality education. Community health nurses can help to enhance education by providing school health services, such as health screening, immunization, and counseling, and by promoting healthy and safe learning environments.
- SDG 5: Gender equality. Community health nurses can help to achieve gender equality by providing gender-sensitive and responsive care, and by empowering women and girls to make informed decisions about their health and rights.
- SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation. Community health nurses can help to ensure access to clean water and sanitation by providing water, sanitation, and hygiene education and interventions, and by preventing and controlling waterborne and vector-borne diseases.
- SDG 10: Reduced inequalities. Community health nurses can help to reduce inequalities by providing equitable and inclusive care, and by advocating for the rights and needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations, such as refugees, migrants, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.
- SDG 13: Climate action. Community health nurses can help to mitigate and adapt to climate change by raising awareness and knowledge about the health impacts of climate change, and by implementing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience and adaptation.
Nursing is a noble and rewarding profession that has a significant role and impact in the global community. Nurses are not only caregivers, but also educators, researchers, leaders, and advocates. Nurses have the potential and the responsibility to improve the health and well-being of people and communities around the world, and to contribute to the global health agenda and the sustainable development goals. By investing in nursing and midwifery, and by supporting and empowering nurses and midwives, we can achieve a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world for all.