Investing in primary care nurses and strengthening the services they provide around the world is crucial to achieving universal health coverage, an international webinar has heard.
An online meeting of nursing leaders from across the globe, hosted by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) this week, discussed the knowledge, expertise and leadership skills nurses have to help ‘optimise access’ to primary health care and the need for governments to properly invest in the sector.
The session explored the role of nurses and primary care in achieving universal health coverage – defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as meaning that ‘all people have access to the full range of quality services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship’.
The WHO has this month suggested the world is ‘off track’ to make significant progress towards universal health coverage by the target of 2023, and has recommended health systems reorient towards using a primary health care approach.
Opening the webinar on Monday, ICN president Dr Pamela Cipriano stressed the need to focus on ‘how we can continue to support and strengthen primary health care – which is really the heart of universal health coverage’.
She said this was a ‘really important time for all of us when we think about the opportunity for nurses to be able to do more in the delivery of primary health care, as we are on our journey for universal health coverage, taking advantage of the advances in health care’.
‘And that is everything from digital technologies, to working with our patients so they are informed,’ added Dr Cipriano.
Across the board, addressing nursing workforce challenges had been ‘top of our list’ at the ICN, she said.
‘You must be able to get the investments from our governments to be able to fund the positions [and] to be able to fund the education that is needed, so that we reduce the workload and have more individuals to provide care,’ she added.
‘We must continue to increase the research base so that we are able to share what nurses are doing in evidence-based care and we need to continue to have more leaders that are speaking to our authorities and our elected officials to get the resources that we need.’
Universal health coverage ‘is really the place where nurses can make the greatest impact’, stressed Dr Cipriano.
‘It is everything from prevention to detection, humanitarian care, advancing our education, providing leadership, strengthening our workforce, and ensuring we have resilient health systems,’ she said.
Meanwhile, ICN chief nurse, Dr Michelle Acorn – who is also a primary health care nurse practitioner – talked to webinar delegates about the effectiveness of nurse-led primary health care clinics.
‘They address gaps in health care, especially in the underserved areas,’ she said.
In addition, Dr Acorn suggested nurses ‘offer workforce solutions’ in primary healthcare, noting a shortage of physician graduates choosing primary care as a career choice.
Dr Acorn stressed that ‘nurses have the knowledge, competence, expertise and leadership to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage and optimise access to primary health care’.
‘If we invest, progress and monitor implementation of primary health care, it is paramount,’ she added.