The Role of Nurses in Improving the Health of Adolescents in Conditions of Vulnerability

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in collaboration and with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), is implementing the project “Improved Health of Women and Adolescent Girls in Situations of Vulnerability.” The project is being implemented from 2021 to 2024 in key countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, and Peru, with a population-level focus on women and adolescents in conditions of vulnerability.

The Human Resources for Health Unit (Health Systems and Services Department) is carrying out activities within the framework of a project on the role of nurses in improving the health of adolescents in conditions of vulnerability.

Health professionals need technical, scientific, and attitudinal skills to avoid being an obstacle to adolescents' access to health services. Given their number and distribution, nurses are usually the first professionals adolescents encounter in health services. Investments in education and the labor market can help ensure that these professionals provide quality care for adolescents. 

The project's general objective is to develop skills and enhance the capacities of nurses in their work with adolescents, especially those in conditions of vulnerability. The project has three phases:

  1. Identify training for nursing students and related government policies
  2. Assess nursing leadership and develop competencies in adolescent health
  3. Advocate for an expanded role for nurses in adolescent care at the first level of care and in school health.

Project activities include promoting events and webinars, publication of operational research and technical documents, training courses, and and exchange of experiences and opportunities through the Community of Practice for Nursing in the Region of the Americas.

The project's first stage was carried out in 2021 and 2022 in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in partnership with universities in those countries: the National University of Colombia, Colombia; the University of Guayaquil, Ecuador; and the National University of San Marcos, Peru. In 2023 and 2024, PAHO will continue activities within the framework of this project to develop the competencies of nurses in the Region of the Americas.

Nurses are expected to help increase access to and coverage of health services for adolescents that are comprehensive, integrated, equitable, rights-based, gender-sensitive, culturally sensitive, people-centered, and based on the primary health care approach.