A Challenge to Worldwide Health Organizations

A Challenge to Worldwide Health Organizations

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday the appointment of Elizabeth Iro, Cook Islands’ Secretary of Health, as its Chief Nursing Officer. To the general public this announcement went unnoticed but it was a momentous advancement for nursing worldwide. The appointment by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is significant and powerful because, for the first time since 2010, it puts a nurse on the senior leadership team of this worldwide health organization.

Tedros’ comments affirm what we all know: “Nurses play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions around the world, but also in transforming health policies, promoting health in communities, and supporting patients and families. Nurses are central to achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Since the WHO is a pinnacle of health leadership, this appointment serves as a model for improving care and infrastructures that promote sustainable development across the world. A nurse in this organization’s senior leadership speaks volumes to the importance of the profession’s representation and of nurses’ desire and ability to respond to the call.

As the most trusted profession in the U.S., and one of the largest forces providing care globally, nurses are at the center of healing individual patients to entire populations, working in hospitals and the community, and even taking on highly important, but lesser publicized roles of providing legal guidance, policy advocacy, and industry consultation.

From my perspective as a nurse, it’s not simply a matter of having equal seats, but igniting a truer sense of interprofessional collaboration and using all members of the health care workforce to effect better patient outcomes.

We extend our congratulations to Ms. Iro and commend Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for fulfilling his promise to appoint a nurse to his senior team. Iro’s background in public health, midwifery, and policy as Cook Islands’ Chief Nursing Officer and Acting Director of Hospital Health Services will be key to addressing pressing global health care issues, particularly climate change, which has been felt by so many Pacific Islanders and remains a complex and urgent concern.

I see this appointment as a challenge and a goal for more health care organizations to follow. Nursing leadership is not just a buzz word in the profession, but critical to addressing and developing comprehensive solutions to health care.

This is certainly a #WeGotThis moment for the profession, and one we must continue to build upon. Not just within nursing, but the health care profession in its entirety as advocates for a healthier tomorrow.


trish_blog-shotPatricia M. Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, is dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and a fellow of the Australian College of Nursing, the American Heart Association, the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and the American Academy of Nursing. She is counsel general of the International Council on Women’s Health Issues and actively involved in the international activities of Sigma Theta Tau International. Follow her on Twitter (@nursingdean).

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