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Unveiling the Power of Nursing Leadership: A Journey to the WHO Headquarters in Geneva

Monday, March 25, 2024
Unveiling the Power of Nursing Leadership: A Journey to the WHO Headquarters in Geneva

By Dr. Sanaa Alharahsheh, Research Manager at World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH)

A memorable trip to WHO Headquarters

Recently, I had an incredible opportunity to embark on a transformative trip to Geneva, Switzerland. This remarkable journey involved active participation in a workshop, in the WHO’s Walk the Talk initiative, and the privilege of attending various sessions and presentations. Geneva, a picturesque city nestled in the heart of Switzerland, is home to the headquarters of renowned international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and is home to global discourses on cutting-edge innovations and leadership in healthcare practice. In collaboration with the Nursing Now Challenge and the WHO, WISH has been working towards empowering young nursing leaders around the world, amplifying their voices and enabling them to positively influence healthcare policies.

Out of hundreds of applicants from over 40 countries, six exceptional nurses and midwives were selected by WISH for this life-changing experience. I embarked on my journey, eagerly anticipating the chance to meet these outstanding young nurses and midwives from the Nursing Now Challenge and engage with the WHO representatives. The experience exceeded all my expectations. Over the course of five days of meetings, talks, workshops, and networking opportunities, we immersed ourselves in the global healthcare landscape, exchanging insights and forging meaningful connections. In this blog, I share my journey to Geneva’s WHO headquarters and share some valuable insights that point to how crucial it is to invest in young healthcare professionals.

Engaging with global healthcare leaders and inspiring professionals from the sector

My journey began at the WHO headquarters, where I had the honor of meeting Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, and other esteemed experts such as Dorine van der Wal, Margaret Harris, and Ann-Lise Guisset. Several talks and presentations provided us with profound insights into WHO’s work, including its clinical services and systems, emergency care, hospital services, healthcare culture, and the global health workforce. We also had the privilege of meeting the Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Amelia Latu Afuhaamango Tuipulotu.

The young nurses and midwives had the opportunity to share their work challenges and advocate for key nursing and midwifery issues. Dr. Tuipulotu’s inspiring ideas and advice created an empowering environment, exemplifying the qualities of a true nursing leader. Our visit also involved engaging with Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department at WHO, and his team, where we learned about the WHO’s recent data and research on workforce development in the health sector. The innovative projects and initiatives they shared left us feeling inspired and hopeful for the future of global healthcare. These meetings provided us with a broader perspective and a deeper understanding of the pressing issues facing healthcare worldwide.

Commitment to empowering the next generation of global health leaders and nursing professionals

The privilege of engaging in a constructive discussion with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus further emphasized his commitment to nurturing the next generation of global health leaders. Young nurses voiced their challenges and proposed the inclusion of young nurses in future World Health Assemblies as part of health ministers’ delegations, highlighting the significance of involving early career nurses in shaping healthcare policies. Dr. Tedros’s dedication to fostering innovation and collaboration will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the field of global health. His commitment to engaging with young professionals serves as a true inspiration for leadership across all fields.

Another highlight of our trip was visiting the International Council of Nurses (ICN) headquarters and meeting their CEO, Howard Caton. His insights into the influential history of this nursing organization and the remarkable work done by nurses and midwives over the years left us in awe. Witnessing the profound and lasting impact of nurse leaders in healthcare is admirable, particularly their commitment to caring for others.

Advocating for Mental Health in Healthcare: a workshop tailored for young nurses and medical students

One of the most rewarding aspects of our journey was participating in a workshop tailored for young nurses and medical students. This collaborative effort focused on advocating for the mental health of healthcare workers and was led by WISH, in partnership with the Nursing Now Challenge and The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), and with the support of FIND, the global alliance for health diagnostics, who kindly opened up their facilities for us to use on a Saturday afternoon.

During the workshop, I presented our recent WISH forum report titled “Duty of Care: A Global Call to Action to Protect the Mental Health of Health and Care Workers.” The report shed light on the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental well-being of healthcare professionals. It highlighted effective interventions and provided ten policy actions to support this vulnerable group and ensure global health security.

Estimates from the report revealed alarming rates of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and burnout among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report unveiled concerning statistics regarding the mental well-being of health and care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It revealed that a significant proportion, ranging from 23 to 46 percent, reported symptoms of anxiety, while 20 to 37 percent experienced depressive symptoms. Burnout was also prevalent among health and care workers, with estimates ranging from 41 to 52 percent in pooled data. The increased vulnerability of younger health workers to negative mental health outcomes is also a cause for concern.

Furthermore, the report emphasized the ongoing workforce crises in the health sector, including a global shortfall of nurses and midwives. The projected shortage of 10.2 million workers by 2030 poses a grave threat to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and global health security. The insights from our report formed the foundation for engaging discussions on identifying and overcoming issues faced by healthcare professionals. Divided into groups, nurses and medical students selected one key policy recommendation from the report and developed innovative advocacy strategies for change. Through this collaborative effort, we aimed to make a tangible difference in supporting the mental well-being of healthcare workers. Engaging in group discussions and innovative advocacy strategies further showcased the participants’ enthusiasm and commitment to improving mental well-being in the healthcare sector.

Walking the talk: Health for All, what next?

As part of our trip, we also participated in “Walk the Talk: Health for All,” organized by the WHO. This event, coinciding with WHO’s 75th anniversary, aimed to promote solidarity and emphasize the importance of physical and mental health. On May 21st, 2023, thousands of healthcare professionals, policymakers, and members of the general public came together to raise awareness about healthy lifestyles and the pursuit of health for all. Walking side by side with fellow participants, I experienced the power of unity and collective action, reinforcing the notion that addressing mental health challenges requires a collaborative effort from individuals, communities, and global organizations. Additionally, this event provided a platform for thought-provoking discussions and idea exchange, as we had the opportunity to network with healthcare experts and policymakers. The exchange of ideas was truly invigorating. I had the privilege to interact with professionals from different countries, each offering unique insights and experiences that have shaped their respective healthcare systems.

Inspiring Young Nursing Leaders: nursing professionals are truly exceptional!

During my journey, I had also the incredible privilege of connecting and engaging with exceptional young nurses and midwives who left an indelible mark on me. Their unwavering curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and determination to create meaningful change have truly inspired me. They exemplified the spirit of leadership and resilience. Witnessing their dedication to influencing policymakers and their profound commitment to the nursing profession has reinforced the pivotal role nurses play in our healthcare systems. Their dedication to their profession, their patients, and the pursuit of excellence was truly awe-inspiring. It is through their passion and determination that we can create a sustainable and patient-centered healthcare ecosystem. At WISH, we firmly recognize and champion the fact that nurses are the backbone of our healthcare systems, and we strive to empower them, expand their horizons, and ensure their voices are heard in healthcare policymaking. Through various initiatives and programs, we strive to empower and equip nurses with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to thrive and excel in their roles. We are committed to amplifying their voices and ensuring that they have a seat at the table in healthcare policymaking. By harnessing the collective power of nurses, we can drive transformative change and improve healthcare outcomes for communities worldwide.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) provided an extraordinary platform for these young nurses to engage in a vibrant exchange of knowledge, ideas, and learning. This prestigious gathering brought together experts, leaders, and professionals from the nursing and healthcare fields, representing diverse corners of the world. Throughout the WHA, these aspiring nurses were immersed in informative sessions and participated in insightful discussions that opened new horizons for learning. Every moment at the WHA served as an opportunity to glean wisdom and expertise from those who have dedicated their lives to shaping the future of nursing and healthcare. These experienced professionals shared valuable insights, evidence-based practices, and innovative approaches to tackling the complex challenges we face in healthcare today. The engagement with these experts ignited a spark within the young nurses, further fueling their passion and commitment to advancing nursing as a profession.

As I reflect on this extraordinary experience, I am filled with hope and optimism for the future of nursing. These young nurses are the torchbearers of change, and their voices are integral to shaping healthcare policies that prioritize patient care, well-being, and equity. Let us continue to support and uplift these remarkable individuals, recognizing their invaluable contributions and their capacity to transform the landscape of healthcare for generations to come.

A valuable experience and a call to prioritize mental health among healthcare professionals and investment in the development of young healthcare professionals.

Overall, my trip to Geneva was an enriching and enlightening experience. The connections and networks I established during my time at the WHO will undoubtedly lead to future opportunities and collaborations. By protecting and investing in the health and well-being of individuals and communities, we can build a healthier society for all. It is the responsibility of governments and employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment, making reasonable adjustments to meet the specific needs of individuals. This commitment to safeguarding the workforce is now recognized as the fifth fundamental principle and right at work by the Member States.

As I reflect on my journey, I am filled with gratitude for the knowledge, experiences, and connections gained. My trip to Geneva has instilled in me a renewed sense of purpose and a profound understanding of the urgent need for global action to protect the mental health of healthcare workers. Let us remember that by prioritizing the mental health of healthcare professionals, we ultimately enhance the quality of care provided to patients and contribute to a healthier and more resilient society as a whole. Together, let us strive for innovation, collaboration, and investment in the development of young healthcare professionals, ensuring a brighter future for global health.

By wish admin, CEO, WISH, and Didi Thompson, Director of Research and Content, WISH.