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A new report examines the factors that hinder and help nurses on their way to leadership roles.
Sixty or seventy years ago, when Edna Adan first decided to become a nurse, people would come up to her mother and say, “We’re so sorry. We’ve heard the news.”
In her home country of Somaliland, nursing—giving care to the sick—was not seen as an honorable choice for a young woman.
But Edna did it anyway. Then she went on to become Minister of Social Affairs and Foreign Minister of Somaliland. Then she founded Somaliland’s Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. Then she opened Edna Adan University. At 82, she’s still working to revolutionize health care and the nursing and midwifery workforce in her country.
Nurses find solutions on the fly, drive change in the hospitals where they work.
Nurses like Edna are leaders in their fields. They find solutions on the fly, drive change in the hospitals where they work.
“During the Crimean war, when more soldiers were dying from infection than from battle wounds, it was a nurse who said, ‘Let’s look at our sanitation,’” said Joy Marini, who leads Johnson & Johnson’s global public health and development team, last week at Women Deliver 2019. “And during an early Ebola outbreak, it was a nurse who wrapped herself in trash bags and duct tape and said, ‘We can do this.’”
Most nurses are women. In fact, women make up 70% of the entire health and social care workforce around the world. Yet only 25% of health system leadership roles are held by women.
A new report launched at Women Deliver examines the gender-related barriers nurses face in rising to positions of leadership in their fields—and what it will take to remove them.
The authors of Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take? surveyed 2,537 nurses and nurse-midwives from 117 countries, and held eight key informant interviews with nurse leaders. The result is an in-depth analysis—punctuated throughout by the voices of real nurses from around the world—of what hinders and helps nurses on their way to leadership roles.
For instance, many nurses reported that challenges balancing unpaid and paid work affect women more than men in nursing, and that gender bias, discrimination, and limited decision-making authority often stand between them and leadership positions.
“It’s clear this isn’t about the individual nurse who needs to be developed,” said IntraHealth’s Constance Newman at the report’s Women Deliver launch event last week. “It’s about the systems that need to be changed in order to raise the profile and improve the status and effectiveness of nurse leaders.”
As the global focus on universal health coverage sharpens, eyes are on the nursing workforce.
The report comes at a crucial time for the nursing field. As the global focus on universal health coverage sharpens, eyes are on the nursing workforce. In many countries, nurses and midwives make up more than half the national health workforce. The World Health Organization has even declared that 2020 will be the year of the nurse and the midwife.
“This is nursing’s moment,” said Barbara Stilwell, executive director of Nursing Now, at the Women Deliver launch event. “If we don’t seize it now, we won’t have another one for a very long time. In terms of achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals—this is where nurses shine. And it’s not just because we think we shine, it’s because we have data that show we do.”
Read the report: Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take?
The authors of Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take? are Constance Newman of IntraHealth International, Barbara Stilwell of Nursing Now Global, Samantha Rick of IntraHealth, and Katia Peterson of In Situ Research, LLC. The report is a product of a research collaboration among IntraHealth, Nursing Now, and Johnson & Johnson.
Read more about IntraHealth’s work with the nursing and midwifery workforce.