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ICN calls for global action on safe nurse staffing levels

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Bullying, safe staffing and retention of nursing staff were among the global workforce issues highlighted at a meeting of international nurse leaders in Finland earlier this week.

The International Council of Nurses has called on all governments to recognise the “imperative” of involving nurses in policy decisions and the profession’s value in delivering high quality healthcare.

“Poor working conditions, low pay and limited career opportunities are significant factors contributing to increasing healthcare workers’ migration”

Christiane Wiskow

The council’s international workforce forum met in Helsinki to discuss staffing issues facing the nursing profession across the world.

Hosted by the Finnish Nurses Association, the meeting brought together nursing experts from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the US.

ICN nurse consultant Lesley Bell said: “Participants spoke passionately about the role of nurses in providing people-centred primary care, recognising that there is no healthcare without a workforce and no workforce without adequate nurses and midwives working to their full scope in positive practice environments.”

Christiane Wiskow, a healthcare policy specialist from the International Labour Organization – an agency of the United Nations – warned that “competition for qualified health workers will grow in the next decades both inside the countries and globally”.

“Poor working conditions, low pay and limited career opportunities are significant factors contributing to increasing healthcare workers’ migration and also to the early exit of nurses from the healthcare sector,” she told delegates.

International Labour Organization

Christiane Wiskow

She said it was important that countries worked towards health workforce sustainability and invested sufficiently in healthcare personnel.

“This does not only mean that we invest in educating more health workers,” said Ms Wiskow. “We also need employment opportunities, good working conditions and wages that can provide for their living.”

Merja Merasto, the president of the Finnish Nurses Association, warned that workforce and pay cuts would not improve healthcare generally or the appeal of the nursing sector to prospective recruits.

She called for expanded job descriptions for nurses and solutions to ease combining work and family life.

The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations. Its international workforce forum meets annually to debate nursing workforce issues and working conditions.

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