Honoring and Celebrating the WHO Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020

by Kathleen Van Wagoner, MSN, RN, MSA

How will you embrace the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020,” which is intentionally timed to coincide with the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, a social reformer and statistician?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designed the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020” to heighten awareness of the world’s need for an additional 9 million nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.[1] Nurses and midwives devote their professional lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting the everyday essential health needs of diverse patient populations. Often the nurse is the first and only point of care in communities around the world and here in the United States. The designation is meant to highlight the challenging conditions nurses face and to advocate for an increased investment in the nursing and midwifery workforce.[2]

The World Health Organization has defined five key investment areas of focus for the year 2020:

  • Invest in more nurse-led and midwife-led services enabling nurses and midwives to work to their full potential.
  • Employ more specialist nurses.
  • Make midwives and nurses central to primary health care, providing services and supervising community health workers.
  • Support nurses and midwives in health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Invest in nursing and midwifery leadership.

To my mind, leadership becomes especially important as we look forward to actualizing the WHOs “key investment” initiatives. Nurses are becoming indispensable members of the leadership team, whether in a titled leadership role or one requiring the behaviors of sound leadership principles, including knowledge, heart, and compassion. Nurses are recognizing their role and are developing and deepening the understanding and commitment to expert competence in communication, collaboration, coordination, delegation, and education—the essential competencies required to both knowledgeably and expertly lead health care teams across the continuum.

Nurses actualize these expert leadership competencies through the six leadership practice roles of Relationship-Based Care®.

  • Sentry: one who watches over and protects
  • Healer: one who cares for another and helps improve their level of health
  • Guide: one who leads or directs another’s way through unfamiliar and often complex and frightening circumstances with the knowledge of the way
  • Teacher: one who imparts knowledge and facilitates another learning a new skill
  • Collaborator: one who works cooperatively with others to achieve a common purpose
  • Leader: someone who has the authority to act on behalf of another and possesses the capacity to effect change and influence direction[3]

Defining the leadership practice roles helps nurses describe what nurses do and more thoroughly celebrate the value nurses bring to the patient experience. I invite you to pause and wonder with me about our plans to promote, recognize and celebrate the WHO “Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.” Nurses are valued members of the communities we serve and bring the expert wisdom and love to the patient and the profession, especially when their voice of leadership and agency are articulated with clarity and confidence.

Where do you plan to bring your nursing leadership clarity and confidence in 2020? The nursing profession has a wonderful and significant opportunity to embrace and define what our next steps will be and give voice to both our calling and the profession of nursing as we honor and celebrate the WHO “Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.”

[1] World Health Organization (2020). The year of the nurse and the midwife 2020. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/year-of-the-nurse-and-the-midwife-2020

[2] Ibid.

[3] Koloroutis, M., Felgen, J., Person, C., & Wessel, S. (2007). Exemplar: Six practice roles and therapeutic communication (P. 312-314). In M. Koloroutis, J. Felgen, C. Person, & S. Wessel (Eds.). Relationship-Based Care field guide: Visions, strategies, tools and exemplars for transforming practice. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Health Care Management.