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Investing in nursing’s future leaders, promoting health for all

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The Nightingale Challenge was launched to support nursing’s rising stars, writes Hannah Finch, who spoke to Northern-Irish, deputy ward sister of Antrim Area Hospital, Kirsty Garrett who has benefited.

Nurses are leaders, advocates and innovators. They are the largest, most-trusted cadre of health workers and yet they have been largely overlooked and excluded from health policy discussions and investment decisions.

The international failure to provide this dynamic workforce with adequate opportunity, recognition and support has contributed to the global shortfall in nursing that we face today.

In 2019, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson and IntraHealth International, Nursing Now published the Gender Assessment of Nursing Leadership report which highlighted the issues facing nurses in healthcare settings and represented the voices of over 2,500 nurses and nurse-midwives from 117 countries.

The findings of this global survey identified a lack of development opportunities and gender-related barriers as the key factors keeping the nursing workforce from pursuing higher-level positions and reaching their full-potential.

On World Health Day 2020, the World Health Organization, the International Council of Nurses and Nursing Now published the first-ever State of the World’s Nursing report. This global snapshot of nursing revealed the urgent need for increased investment in nursing education and leadership training in order to improve recruitment and retention within the nursing workforce.

One year on, as the world’s health systems continue to struggle with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing is clear – investing in the nursing workforce, and improving nursing recruitment and retention is vital to protect health globally.

Since its launch by Nursing Now in 2019, the Nightingale Challenge has inspired and supported employers of health workers around the world to provide leadership training to develop a generation of early-career nurses and midwives to become leaders and confident agents of change.

Today, there are more than 30,000 nurses and midwives in 79 countries taking part in Nightingale Challenge leadership programmes.

From the outset, early-career nurses and midwives have repeatedly demonstrated their leadership skills in providing excellent patient care, identifying creative solutions to everyday challenges and leading multi-disciplinary teams to implement a holistic approach to health.

The Nightingale Challenge has successfully created a global platform for early-career nurses and midwives to showcase their innovative ideas and critical thinking.

It has created a space for them to demonstrate their leadership potential and invaluable contribution to healthcare. Below is a perspective from a nurse who has been part of the Nightingale Challenge.

Kirsty Garrett, Northern Ireland (Deputy ward sister, Antrim Area Hospital)

“Through my participation in the Nightingale Challenge, I have learnt a vast amount about leadership and have been given the opportunity to network with other young nurses and inspirational nurse leaders from around the world.

When I started the Global Leadership Development Programme, I was in a staff nurse post and, after participating in Nightingale workshops, I gained additional skills which led to my success at interview for the post of deputy ward sister.

My personal ambition is to be a transformational leader, a leader who finds the best ways to achieve a goal, a motivator and a role model who is always approachable. I aspire to empower others to be a leader themselves, and take ownership and pride in their roles and to enjoy doing them. The Nightingale Challenge is equipping me with valuable skills to achieve this.

Investing in young nurse leaders is vital to ensure that there are individuals equipped to guide, lead and be role models for the future of nursing and midwifery.”

Harnessing the power of the nursing profession to build back better

June 2021 marks a new beginning for the Nightingale Challenge. It will begin its next chapter with a new name, the Nursing Now Challenge, but under the continued leadership of Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, in partnership with the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

Professor Bayliss-Pratt, pro-vice chancellor at Coventry University and Nursing Now Challenge programme director, has led the initiative since its inception, when she was chief nurse at Health Education England (HEE).

The Nursing Now Challenge will carry forward the ambitious mandate of the Nightingale Challenge and will accelerate the early-career nursing leadership agenda by working with health employers around the world to create development opportunities and positive practice environments, in which the skill and potential of early-career nurses can be harnessed and used to its full potential.

“We hope that the Nursing Now Challenge will have a significant impact, particularly in low and middle-income countries,” said Professor Bayliss-Pratt.

We will work with organisations including HEE and the Tropical Health and Education Trust to support the development of the global health workforce, strengthening health systems and improving the health of people around the world,” she said.

By supporting the leadership development of early-career nurses and midwives on a global scale, the Nursing Now Challenge will enable nurses and midwives to work to the top of their license as practitioners, advocates and leaders in health.

There is no doubt that today there is a new-found, worldwide appreciation for the nursing workforce and the invaluable work that nurses do.

Now it is time to invest in the nursing leaders of today and tomorrow and create a global culture in which their contribution to healthcare is truly valued, because without it, there can be no healthy recovery and no health for all.


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