PAHO calls for strengthening leadership skills and opportunities in nursing education and practice

Día internacional de enfermería 2024
PAHO/WHO/Ary Rogerio Silva

Washington DC, 13 May 2024 (PAHO) - In the Region of the Americas, approximately seven million nurses are at the forefront of health promotion, disease prevention, and health management. On International Nurses Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted the importance of discussing gender, leadership, and innovation in nursing education and practice to enhance the future of the nursing profession in the Region of the Americas.  

To celebrate the international day, PAHO organized a hybrid event held on May 9, in which around 1,500 participants from 83 countries attended in-person and virtually. The participants included authorities from the Ministries of Health, chief nursing officers, representatives from universities, PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centers, national nurses’ associations, among other stakeholders.

“These dedicated professionals are the backbone of healthcare systems worldwide, working on the front line of disease prevention, health promotion, and health management. It is necessary to invest in nursing education, jobs, leadership, and service delivery” said Mary Lou Valdez, PAHO Deputy Director, during the opening remarks. 

At the global level, women account for 67% of the health workforce. In the Americas, 56% of health workforce are nurses and over 80% are women. However, they face structural barriers and unequal opportunities in terms of labor market access and guaranteed labor benefits. 

“The Region of the Americas needs more nurses working in the formulation, implementation, and execution of health policies. It is essential to strengthen leadership skills in nursing education and promote leadership opportunities for nurses” Benjamín Puertas, unit chief of Human Resources for Health at PAHO. 

International nurses day

“There is a need for leadership development opportunities for nurses, as well as strategies and policies that adopt a gender perspective in the health workforce. The empowerment of nursing professionals and gender equality will increase the attraction and retention of professionals” he said.

Puertas also highlighted that investment in innovation is a key pillar for strengthening Primary Health Care, and that working in interprofessional teams and increasing the use of telehealth is a tool for achieving more responsive primary health care, expanding access for all, especially for the populations in situations of vulnerability.

According to recent estimates, there is heterogeneity of nursing education regarding opportunities, competencies, structure, curriculum, and the qualifications of the faculty members.  “Continuous education actions are needed throughout the entire working life, being especially useful virtual tools, such as the Virtual Campus of Public Health, and the offer of capacity-building initiatives” said Mary Lou Valdez.  

The PAHO Deputy-Director also called on countries, Ministries of Health, National Nursing Associations and Governmental Chief Nursing Officers to participate and support the collection and review of data for the State of the World's Nursing Report 2025. This is essential to have current and reliable data on the profile of nursing to support the decision-making process and the development of policies and strategies to strengthen nursing in the Americas.

Pamela Cipriano, President of the International Council of Nurses, presented on “The economic power of nursing care”, and highlighted that investing in nursing addresses gender equality and leads to healthier societies and economic and social prosperity. Leigh Chapman, Chief Nursing Officer, Canada; Heimar Marin, Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics and Full Professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil; and Perla Simons Morales, Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, National Autonomous University of Honduras, participated of a panel discussion on “Nursing Innovation, Education and Practice”.

Gabriel Listovsky, Special Program Chief of the Virtual Campus for Public Health, presented the new online self-learning course on “Nursing Leadership: Strengthening Management of Nursing Practice in the Caribbean”. This open course, available in English and Spanish, is intended for nursing professionals who are seeking to enhance their leadership capacities and who are currently practicing in the field of nursing as clinicians, managers, educators, researchers, or administrators.

The recording of the meeting is available here