Often referred to as the “backbone of health-care systems,” nurses are key for the detection, treatment, and prevention of infectious disease in many settings. In fact, nurses are responsible for the care of nine of 10 patients worldwide. Over a century ago, Florence Nightingale recognized both the need for formal training for nurses as well as the power of the nurse to improve patient outcomes. She was considered an early and brilliant pioneer in public health, epidemiology, and infectious disease research when she observed that British soldiers in the Crimean War were more likely to die of infection than battle injuries.1
In the 21st century, nurses are key in the prevention of infection. For example, nurses deliver 80% of all babies worldwide and their meticulous attention to infection control during delivery prevents countless neonatal infections. Likewise, nurses in lower and middle income countries, as well as more affluent settings, prevent surgical infections and iatrogenic infections in wards, operating rooms, and emergency settings. In addition, nurses are frontline health-care providers in community settings, and their attention to problems of infection control in under-resourced community settings cements their importance in the workforce.
While many agree that well-trained nurses are critical for the actual delivery of health care, what is less well known are the unique contributions of nurses in creating solutions in health-care delivery. A recent blog post in Scientific American highlights important research by nurses, from exploring links to Alzheimer's to human papilloma virus and cancer.2 Moreover, the National Institute of Nursing Research emphasizes the importance of a global focus in achieving its mission of “advancing nursing science to improve the health and well-being of all the world's citizens.”3 Importantly, nurse scientists are trained to evaluate social, economic, and psychological, as well as biological, aspects to causes of disease, disease management, and prevention, making them uniquely qualified to develop global health solutions with staying power.
The purpose of this perspective is to show how nursing research and nursing practice provide global health solutions. We will describe work in three global health areas where ideas were originated and sustained by nurse researchers and nurse-led health-care teams—human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and prevention strategies in Malawi, family planning in Kenya, and response to the recent Ebola outbreak.
Hamilton N, 2016. Nurses are Caretakers, not Scientists, Right? Wrong. Scientific American. Available at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/nurses-are-caretakers-not-scientists-right-wrong/. Accessed November 2, 2016.
National Institute of Nursing Research, 2015. Overview of Global Health Research. Available at: https://www.ninr.nih.gov/researchandfunding/globalhealth#.WCyafsn44mo. Accessed October 14, 2016.
Lindgren T, Schell E, Rankin S, Phiri J, Fiedler R, Chakanza J, 2013. A response to Edzi (AIDS): Malawi faith-based organizations' impact on HIV prevention and care. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care 24: 227–241.
McCreary LL, Kaponda CP, Davis K, Kalengamaliro M, Norr KF, 2013. Empowering peer group leaders for HIV prevention in Malawi. J Nurs Scholarsh 45: 288–297.
Schmiedeknecht K, Perera M, Schell E, Jere J, Geoffroy E, Rankin S, 2015. Predictors of workforce retention among Malawian nurse graduates of a scholarship program: a mixed methods study. Glob Health Sci Pract 3: 85–96.
Steyn PS, Cordero JP, Gichangi P, Smit JA, Nkole T, Kiarie J, Temmerman M, 2016. Participatory approaches involving community and healthcare providers in family planning/contraceptive information and service provision: a scoping review. Reprod Health 13: 88.
Ochako R, Izugbara C, Okal J, Askew I, Temmerman M, 2016. Contraceptive method choice among women in slum and non-slum communities in Nairobi, Kenya. BMC Womens Health 16: 35.
McConnell M, Ettenger A, Rothschild CW, Muigai F, Cohen J, 2016. Can a community health worker administered postnatal checklist increase health-seeking behaviors and knowledge?: evidence from a randomized trial with a private maternity facility in Kiambu County, Kenya. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16: 136.
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McConnell M Ettenger A Rothschild CW Muigai F Cohen J 2016. Can a community health worker administered postnatal checklist increase health-seeking behaviors and knowledge?: evidence from a randomized trial with a private maternity facility in Kiambu County, Kenya. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16: 136. 27260500
MacIntyre CR, Chughtai AA, Seale H, Richards GA, Davidson PM, 2014. Respiratory protection for healthcare workers treating Ebola virus disease (EVD): are facemasks sufficient to meet occupational health and safety obligations? Int J Nurs Stud 51: 1421–1426.
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MacIntyre CR Chughtai AA Seale H Richards GA Davidson PM 2014. Respiratory protection for healthcare workers treating Ebola virus disease (EVD): are facemasks sufficient to meet occupational health and safety obligations?Int J Nurs Stud 51: 1421– 1426. 25218265