guest column

The world will need 9 million more nurses and midwives this decade

By , Guest Columnist Updated: May 12, 2020 6:34 AM CT | Published: May 12, 2020 4:00 AM CT
Guest Columnist

Robin Mutz

Robin Mutz is chief nurse executive and senior vice president for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Today is International Nurses Day and the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. On this occasion, we celebrate the incredible work of the world’s nurses and contemplate the importance of this noble profession.

I have been a nurse for more than 40 years. Today, as I behold my profession, I am filled with pride for the great work nurses are doing, for their bravery, selflessness and commitment to others during a scary time. Nurses are on the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic, offering comfort, easing distress and alleviating pain.

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As a young girl, my mother wanted to become a nurse. In keeping with the time, however, she set aside those dreams to raise a family. Growing up, I felt the same pull to nursing. Early on, I decided I would follow her dream and be the kind of nurse my mother had hoped to be.

<strong>Robin Metz</strong>

Robin Metz

In the early years of my career – as chief nursing officer of Women’s Services for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and executive nursing director for Children’s and Women’s Services at Medical University of South Carolina – I cared for infants, children and women coping with some of the most complex times of their lives.

It’s a decision I have never regretted. Our profession instills us with a lion’s courage and servant’s heart. We carry this unique skill set with us at home, at work and in our community.

Florence Nightingale became famous during the Crimean War for organizing nurses and collecting statistical data while treating wounded soldiers. She elevated nursing to a profession based on the scientific method.

Every year on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12, we observe International Nurses Day to mark the contributions nurses make to society. This year, the 200th anniversary of her birthday, the World Health Organization has proclaimed 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and has released a report on the “State of Nursing.”

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The world needs more nurses. WHO estimates that the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2030. Nurses play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention and delivering primary and community care. And we are seeing in real time just how much the world relies on nurses to provide care in emergency situations.

Around the world, nurses are demonstrating their compassion, bravery and courage as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never before has their value been more clearly demonstrated. This pandemic may be the greatest challenge the medical profession has faced in generations, and nurses are the backbone of our health system.

As we celebrate her birthday, I think Florence Nightingale would be proud to be in the trenches with the nurses of today. In nursing, we see happiness, heartbreak and all the moments in between. These collective experiences teach us the value of compassion, the importance of gratitude and the merit of staying calm under pressure.

Those called to our profession possess a special blend of grit and grace. I am proud to be counted among their ranks.

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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital World Health Organization Florence Nightingale


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