Covid-19 pandemic and global shortage of nurses

Prasuna Kadel

  • Read Time 3 min.

Nurses play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention, and delivering primary and community care. They provide care in emergency settings and will be a key to the achievement of universal health coverage. Achieving health for all will depend on there being sufficient numbers of well-trained and educated, regulated and well-supported nurses and midwives, who receive pay and recognition matching with the services and quality of care that they provide.

The report of the UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth concluded that investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth.

Global shortage of nurses

There is a global shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and midwives, who represent more than 50% of the current shortage in health workers. The largest needs-based shortages of nurses and midwives are in South East Asia and Africa. However, in the UK widespread nursing shortages has led to staff burnout. The nursing union, Royal College of Nursing states a combination of staff absence due to the pandemic, and around 40,000 registered nursing vacancies in England was putting too much strain on the remaining workforce. The government says more than 13,000 nurses have been recruited this year. It has committed to 50,000 more nurses by 2025.Nurses shortages are affecting every area of nursing, from critical care and cancer services to community nursing, which provides care to people in their own homes.

Nearly six million more nurses are needed to ensure healthcare standards rise again after the pandemic. The World Health Organization says the need is most acute in poorer nations. Investment in training and strengthening nurse leadership are crucial and nations must close the gender gap for nurses with better pay and employment rights.

A WHO report states that nearly 6 million more nurses will be needed by 2030 to deliver the higher standards of healthcare needed once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Most of the 5.9 million new nurses will be needed in middle- and low-income nations.

Nearly six million more nurses are needed to ensure healthcare standards rise again after the pandemic.

Nurses should be entitled to fair pay and working conditions to increase retention anywhere in the world. Nurses can play a key part in improving primary healthcare and increasing universal health coverage. Nurses are the first line of defense against widespread epidemics, and as the people who treat patients directly and daily, they are the most key components of any health care system. We tend to think of nursing education as an opportunity for personal betterment, professionally and financially, but nursing education has a much wider impact. The choice of specialization, for instance, is not just a matter of personal preference; it can be part of meeting a worldwide need. Some of the most crucial areas of specialty needed in the rest of the world are pediatric nurses, nurse midwives, rural health nurses, and public health nurses/community nurses.

Shortage of nurses in UK and recruitment plan

Covid-19 has exposed a long-running shortage of nurses that is putting patients at risk. The pandemic has exposed a deficit in nursing. Around 10% of positions registered in the UK National Health Service were vacant when the pandemic first hit in March 2020.

Funding worth £28m is being made available in England to quickly “accelerate” the recruitment of nurses from overseas, following a period of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is about recognizing that international recruitment must not come at the expense of low- and middle-income countries that can at any time, not just when we are all facing a pandemic, ill afford to lose health workers.

International nurses whose UK visas expire before October 1 have been given a free year-long extension to allow their focus to remain on the frontline response to Covid-19. The demand for critical care and general nurses remains high.

How to get registered in the UK

To get register in the UK, nurses, and midwives should have either CBT (Computer-based test) or OSCE (objective structured clinical examination). However, the test will be changing from August 2021. The computer-based test (CBT) will be split into two parts – Part A will cover numeracy and Part B will cover nursing or midwifery theory. The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) will have 10 stations: Four stations will continue to be linked together around a scenario: the APIE (one station for assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation), four stations will test skills – two pairs of two skills and two new stations will be introduced – one will assess the candidate’s values and behaviors and the other will assess evidence-based practice. Those nurses who want to apply to the UK please visit for further information.