This morning, nurses from all over the country gathered for a protest in front of the White House to bring about awareness of the ongoing hazardous conditions nurses are being subjected to due to shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The also honored fallen nurses that have passed after contracting COVID-19 while working.
WHO| News Release| Geneva [original release here]
The Covid-19 pandemic underscores the urgent need to strengthen the global health workforce. A new report, The State of the World’s Nursing 2020, provides an in-depth look at the largest component of the health workforce. Findings identify important gaps in the nursing workforce and priority areas for investment in nursing education, jobs, and leadership to strengthen nursing around the world and improve health for all. Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, providing vital services throughout the health system. Historically, as well as today, nurses are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics that threaten health across the globe. Around the world they are demonstrating their compassion, bravery and courage as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic: never before has their value been more clearly demonstrated.
‘Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19,’ said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. ‘This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.’
The report, by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now, reveals that today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide. Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million – with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.
Revealingly, more than 80 per cent of the world’s nurses work in countries that are home to half of the world’s population. And one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained. Ageing also threatens the nursing workforce: one out of six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years.
To avert the global shortage, the report estimates that countries experiencing shortages need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average 8% per year, along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system. This would cost roughly USD 10 per capita (population) per year.
“Politicians understand the cost of educating and maintaining a professional nursing workforce, but only now are many of them recognizing their true value,” said ICN President Annette Kennedy. “Every penny invested in nursing raises the wellbeing of people and families in tangible ways that are clear for everyone to see. This report highlights the nursing contribution and confirms that investment in the nursing profession is a benefit to society, not a cost. The world needs millions more nurses, and we are calling on governments to do the right thing, invest in this wonderful profession and watch their populations benefit from the amazing work that only nurses can do.”
About 90 per cent of all nurses are female, yet few nurses are found in senior health leadership positions– the bulk of those positions are held by men. But when countries enable nurses to take a leadership role, for example by having a government chief nursing officer (or equivalent), and nursing leadership programmes, conditions for nurses improve.
“This report places much-needed data and evidence behind calls to strengthen nursing leadership, advance nursing practice, and educate the nursing workforce for the future,” said Lord Nigel Crisp, Co-Chair of Nursing Now. “The policy options reflect actions we believe all countries can take over the next ten years to ensure there are enough nurses in all countries, and that nurses use of the full extent of their education, training, and professional scope to enhance primary health care delivery and respond to health emergencies such as COVID-19. This must start with broad and intersectoral dialogue which positions the nursing evidence in the context of a country’s health system, health workforce, and health priorities.”
To equip the world with the nursing workforce it needs, WHO and its partners recommend that all countries:
- increase funding to educate and employ more nurses;
- strengthen capacity to collect, analyze and act on data about the health workforce;
- monitor nurse mobility and migration and manage it responsibly and ethically;
- educate and train nurses in the scientific, technological and sociological skills they need to drive progress in primary health care;
- establish leadership positions including a government chief nurse and support leadership development among young nurses;
- ensure that nurses in primary health care teams work to their full potential, for example in preventing and managing noncommunicable diseases;
- improve working conditions including through safe staffing levels, fair salaries, and respecting rights to occupational health and safety;
- implement gender-sensitive nursing workforce policies;
- modernize professional nursing regulation by harmonizing education and practice standards and using systems that can recognize and process nurses’ credentials globally; and
- strengthen the role of nurses in care teams by bringing different sectors (health, education, immigration, finance and labour) together with nursing stakeholders for policy dialogue and workforce planning.
The report’s message is clear: governments need to invest in a massive acceleration of nursing education, creation of nursing jobs, and leadership. Without nurses, midwives, and other health workers, countries cannot win the battle against outbreaks, or achieve universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In light of this gruesome pandemic, we have chosen to advocate for nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who have died on the frontline. Our founder is currently serving in a high impact area and most of our ambassadors are working in critical areas alongside hundreds of thousands of other healthcare workers. Countless nurses on the front lines have been infected and several have died in service due to the lack of PPE, below standard working conditions and impossible patient surges. With such conditions, a resounding fear amongst providers has been their own mortality and the financial impact it may have on their families- amid other concerns. This fear has kept some away from the frontline and is definitely a large stressor to those who are working tirelessly.
We charge the federal government with negligence evidenced by the lack emergency stockpile of protective gear and overall unpreparedness for pandemic- despite governmental and private sector warnings. Please read our petition below and click here to sign.
As the COVD -19 pandemic persists- nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers (HCWs) are being infected on the front line and several have already died from complications of the virus. Experts believe that health care workers are at a greater risk for serious illness despite age. Yet hundreds of thousands of professionals continue to report to their shifts amidst severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), ever-changing protocols and the lack of other critical equipment (beds, ventilators, testing kits etc.) necessary to do their jobs – placing their lives directly on the line.  Many are doing so without a clear understanding of the insurance benefits that may or may not be made available to their families should they succumb to the virus.
In a climate of so much uncertainty, nurses, doctors and other HCWs should not have to endure the additional stress of worrying if their families will be taken care of financially should they pass.
What We’re Asking
This petition is a call to action to the federal government to create a death-in-service pandemic fund to be paid out to the families of fallen providers. Said funds would provide compensation to victims’ families when COVID-19 infections lead to death or serious injury and cover but not be limited to: economic loss, virus related medical debt, burial fees, crisis/hazard pay differentials and post-incident response for injured victims- regardless of underlying conditions. Such fund would also set precedent for future crisis.
A federal death-in-service fund would determine specifics around victim compensation packages and explicitly name “death gratuity”-a lump sum, non-taxable gratuitous payment or collective benefit for healthcare providers. This fund would supersede, but fill gaps where state workers’ compensation, employers’ benefits, pension plans and other guarantees fall short. Nurse, doctors and HCWs would qualify by having worked full-time on the frontline areas with evidence of origin of exposure.
A Victim Compensation Fund for Nurses, Healthcare Workers
Although a pandemic death-in-service fund for nurses and other HCWs is unprecedented, the federal government has created funds for servicemen and civilians of the 9/11 terrorist attacks & Oklahoma City bombings- allocating billions of dollars to the families ofÂ servicemen killed on duty. In addition, the US Military provides a death gratuity made to eligible beneficiaries of members who die on duty along with various other entitlements and benefits. For those whose death is as a result of hostile actions or performing a hazardous duty, the payment is $100,000, in addition to any life insurance plans or policies. These funds are also often released immediately to aid survivors in their readjustment and to help address immediate expenses incurred. HCWs on the front line deserve the same parity during this pandemic.
If We Don’t Act
Failing to provide nurses, doctors and other HCWs death-in-service benefits could possibly lead to lack of participation on the front line during the most critical peaks of the pandemic. The UK is currently facing concerns that the loss of death-in-service benefits has made some HCWs less willing to work in high risk areas and is creating untimely tension with the National Health Service, a large publicly funded healthcare system in England. Deaths amongst US HCWs continue to trickle in; however, countries abroad have reported staggering numbers of infected and deceased. To date, more than 3,300 healthcare workers have been infected in China and 46 doctors have died, with an unreported number of nurses and other HCWs. At least 6,420 health care workers in Italy have contracted the virus as of March 27th 2020, which has resulted in the death of some 50 doctors and an unreported number of nurses and other HCWs.  Aftermath liability claims could potentially clog court systems and create further economic harm and mistrust amongst governments and insurance companies, much like in 9/11. In addition claims would be arguably larger due to the prolonged suffering for families of the fallen.
Nurses, doctors & HCWs are our strongest asset and we must provide them reassurance during this time. Give our nurses, doctors and HCWs peace of mind. Please support this petition to help urge our federal government to develop compensatory measures for the families of our fallen healthcare heroes.
What You Can Do- Sign Now!
Please act now and sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/donald-j-trump-death-in-service-compensation-for-us-nurses-doctors-healthcare-workers