Nurse leaders warn of global nurse shortage at 21st Asia Workforce Forum in Thailand

a group photo of nurses on the occasion of ICN Asia workforce forum
a group photo of nurses on the occasion of ICN Asia workforce forum

Nurse leaders from 10 National Nurses Associations across Asia, representing eight million nurses, warned of the growing global nurse shortage at the 21st Asia Workforce Forum (AWFF) in Thailand. The focus of the forum was to discuss current nursing and health priorities across the region and share strategies to effectively support nurses across Asia. One key focus for the AWFF was to assess how the pandemic nurse workforce challenges can best be analyzed and addressed. Nursing shortages, aging populations, and other key concerns were discussed.

The nurse leaders addressed the issue of nurse shortages and the linked subject of nurse migration, highlighting the widening gap in supply and demand of nurses. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge health system rebuild, whilst also having been a major cause of nurse stress, burnout and turnover. Participants reviewed and verified these challenges, and explored strategies for cooperation among countries.

The communique released at the end of the AWFF highlighted important topics discussed, including the growing shortage of nurses in all countries and regions, and the aging of the population as another identified source of increased demand for nurses. The Forum expressed deep concern about the detrimental impacts of increasing levels of active international recruitment by high-income countries on the ability of lower- and middle-income countries to maintain safe and accessible health services to their populations.

The forum recognized that the pandemic has accelerated the need for effective primary care and chronic care, which will also be driven by aging populations, and there is increasing recognition of the value of advanced practice nurses working in these areas, often as the main first point of contact for communities. Participants agreed that securing sufficient and well-qualified nurses is a critical and central step in supporting health system rebuild and achieving UHC.

The Forum agreed that all national nursing associations must work with other stakeholders to improve retention, and advance the career development and professionalism of nurses by securing, recognizing and rewarding excellence in nursing practice. Continuous professional development is the most effective way to retain competent nurses for patient-centered care, particularly when it is linked with a career structure with real prospects for promotion.

The Forum also agreed that it is critical that during the process of health system rebuild, and to enable recovery of the nursing workforce, senior nurses are fully involved in the policy-making process within their countries, and internationally, in order to ensure that the central role of the nursing workforce is fully represented. Investment in the nursing workforce is essential to improve global health, achieve UHC and deliver the SDGs but that it is also fundamental to patient safety and the security and sustainability of health systems. Investment in health is also a key enabler and accelerator of economic growth. The Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery (SDNM) 2021-2025 developed by WHO and ICN and adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) was the roadmap to both support our global nursing workforce and rebuild our health systems and must be implemented in all countries.


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