COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gender inequalities faced by nurses, says ICN

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has spoken out against the “unacceptable” inequalities faced by nurses, and women in general, during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

ICN President Annette Kennedy said insufficient investment in, a lack of respect for, and the rising abuse of nurses could no longer be tolerated.

“As we look back on the past year of the pandemic, we see call after call for protection, decent pay and acceptable working conditions for this 90% female workforce being ignored by governments and policymakers all over the world.

“Women, especially nurses, have shouldered the majority of the care of the ill and dying, along with increased childcare, yet we see rates of violence and abuse against women are on the rise, and nurses are continuing to put their lives at risk for a low-paid, undervalued job. It is time for our demands to be taken seriously.”

Ms Kennedy said she was also worried about the predicted exodus of nurses from the profession due to trauma triggered from caring for patients with COVID-19.

“There is a worldwide shortage of six million nurses, and a further four million are due to retire in the next decade. If we factor in the COVID Effect, in addition that could leave health services with only half the nurses they currently have if drastic action is not taken.”

ICN has released an online publication detailing the work it carried out in 2020 to advocate and lobby for the support and protection of nurses during the pandemic. From the emergence of the virus in China, to the deaths of 1.7 million people worldwide by the end of last year, the report provides a monthly diary of the adversities nurses faced, including how they were often simultaneously praised and abused for doing their jobs.

The e-publication honours the thousands of nurses who have died because of COVID-19. It includes reports released by ICN on the mass trauma experienced by the nursing profession as a result of the pandemic, and on the nursing shortage, including the increase in nurses intending to leave the profession due to burnout and distress.

ICN says that the applause afforded nurses has now faded, and most governments have taken no meaningful action to reward nurses with more than just words.

“Over the past year, ICN has called for adequate supplies of protective equipment, for the virus to be considered an occupational disease, for governments to speak out against attacks on nurses, for nurses to be part of pandemic taskforces and decision-making, and for nurses and other healthcare workers in every country to be prioritised for the vaccine. Yet these calls are still not always being heeded. ICN is challenging this inherent bias against the female dominated profession of nursing.”

Read the e-publication here

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