Intended for healthcare professionals

The future of nursing

It is lamentable that it has taken a pandemic for the world to see nurses’ value to society, in terms of health and wealth. The World Health Assembly designated 2020 as International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. However, many events planned to showcase nursing did not go ahead because nurses worldwide had key roles responding to covid-19.

Yet the ensuing media coverage has given the public unique insight into the complexity of modern nursing beyond nostalgic stereotypes. Worldwide, we have seen nurses caring for ventilated patients, using technology to help families say goodbye to dying loved ones, leading and delivering testing and vaccination services, and holding governments to account by fighting for personal protective equipment.

Nurses are often the first healthcare professional a patient sees; many times they are the only ones. Without nurses the sustainable development goals and universal health coverage are but mere aspiration.

This collection of BMJ articles, commissioned by World Innovation Summit for Health, explores the evidence available to inform individual nurses, the profession, and policy makers as they reinvent nursing for a post-covid world, including practicable recommendations for ways forward.

How to reposition the nursing profession for a post-covid age
The pandemic has laid bare the need to invest in nursing for global health and economic security. Howard Catton and Elizabeth Iro outline how the profession must transform to maximize its effect on patient care and outcomes.

How to attain gender equality in nursing—an essay
Tackling stereotypes and assumptions that deter men from nursing is essential to meet the growing shortage of nurses and improve diversity, say Thomas Kearns and Paul Mahon.

How the nursing profession should adapt for a digital future
Transformation into a digitally enabled profession will maximize the benefits to patient care, write Richard Booth and colleagues.

Nursing’s pivotal role in global climate action
Nurses moved early and eagerly to advocate action to resist climate change and are well positioned to achieve much more. Patricia Butterfield, Jeanne Leffers, and Maribel Díaz Vásquez urge nurses to act boldly within and across professional boundaries.

Funding for the articles in this collection, including open access fees, was provided by World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), which is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation. The BMJ commissioned, peer reviewed, edited, and made the decision to publish these articles.

Elizabeth Iro and Howard Catton guest edited this collection, with the support of advisory panel members Patricia Davidson, David Miller, Mary Ishepe Nandili, Thomas Keans, Michele Rumsey and Sally Thorne. Richard Hurley and Kamran Abbasi were the lead editors for The BMJ.