WHO Chief Nursing Officer calls for recruitment drive for Year of the Nurse 2020

14 November 2019

Addressing worldwide shortage of nurses “will be very challenging” – WHO Chief Nursing Officer Elizabeth Iro


The World Health Organization’s Chief Nursing Officer has highlighted the challenge countries will have to recruit enough nurses over the next decade and called for renewed efforts ahead of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

Elizabeth Iro said the projected shortfall of nine million nurses and midwives by 2030 will affect low- and middle-income countries worst because of a lack of investment in training enough nurses, and because of the international recruitment policies of many wealthier countries.

Speaking at a meeting of European editors of nursing journals, hosted by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in Geneva, Ms Iro said:

“I think it will be very challenging. A shortage of nine million is the projected figure, and I’m hopeful that countries will really consider the bare facts, and their investment in training nurses.”

She said many nurses are migrating to wealthier countries that are not training enough nurses of their own, and in some countries, nurses are being trained specifically to be exported overseas.

“Some low- and middle-income countries will be left with the most shortages, and that is what is predicted in the nine-million figure. We need to look at a labour market approach to this shortfall, and make sure that countries are investing in training nurses to address the shortages.”

Next week at the ICN Asia Workforce Forum in Seoul, Korea, ICN will publish and discuss its position statement on “International career mobility and ethical nurse recruitment” which addresses the challenges raised by Ms Iro.

Ms Iro also spoke about the importance of next year’s 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife celebrations as an opportunity to highlight the contributions these professions make to achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals to increase nurse recruitment around the world.

She said raising the profile of nursing and increasing the public’s understanding of how rewarding a career in nursing can be for men and women will be important measures of the success of next year’s Year of the Nurse activities.