This year’s celebration of the International Nurses Day (May 12) and the Filipino Nursing Diaspora Day (May 7) comes with an important call to action: to invest in nursing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fragilities in our health care systems that nurses have long been reporting. The pandemic has profound implications for the health, economic progress, social cohesion, and public trust in national and local governments.
Specifically, it has taken a dreadful toll on the nursing workforce. Our recent dialogues with nurses working in short-staffed hospitals and health centers revealed the pressure to maintain the delivery of routine health service while providing emergency services due to the surge in COVID-19 community transmissions. This left the nursing workforce overworked with poor mental health.
We argue that the well-being of nurses—the single largest contingent of the health workforce in the Philippines—is integrally tied to the health systems landscape, as well as the infrastructures that nurture and enable nurses to quality patient care despite challenges in practice.
Our half a million nurses make a central contribution to the Philippines’ targets related to a range of health priorities, including universal health coverage (UHC), noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), mental health, disaster preparedness and response, and patient safety.
To give a sense of why investing in nursing is essential. More than its strength in numbers, our nurses have the mindset and education to align with what is needed to achieve the country’s UHC.
Nurses have close ties to communities and understand the culture—integral to promote positive behavior change. Therefore, nurses should be at the center of managing NCDs within the framework of the Philippines’ UHC.
A thriving nursing profession will fast-track the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. With the debilitating impacts of the pandemic, we need health professionals who see individuals and communities holistically. The nature of nursing, as a caring profession, makes nurses crucial to improve the quality of life of every Filipino, facing the health and social impacts of the pandemic.
Nurses at all levels, when enabled and supported to work to the full scope of their education and training, can provide effective primary and preventive health care, amongst many other health services that are instrumental to achieving UHC.
For too long, Filipino nurses have been under-resourced and underutilized. Taken for granted, our nurses remain invisible in policy debates.
As the country transitions into a new administration, we hope to see these challenges addressed and for a commitment to invest in our nurses and health care in the coming years. It is a most valuable resource that the Philippine government may tap into as demand for health care is likely to put unprecedented strain on the country’s health system and our nurses (together with other health professionals), who every day are saving and improving lives.
On this International Nurses Day (May 12) and the Filipino Nursing Diaspora Day (May 7), we must realize that the vast nursing dividend is the key to delivering on the promise of health for all.
Violeta Lopez, RN, Ph.D., FACN (president); Ma. Cythia Leigh, RN, Ph.D., FACN (director for professional development); Jerome Babate, RN, M.B.A. (executive director); Joemer Maravilla, RN, Ph.D. (director for research); Rozzano Locsin, RN, Ph.D., FAAN (advisor); Mark Santos, RN, Ed.D. (advisor); Ma. Danet Bluhm, RN, Ph.D., FAAN (advisor); Floro Cubelo, RN, MPH (advisor); Jed Montayre, RN, Ph.D. (advisor), Filipino Nursing Diaspora Network
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