At Least 1,500 Nurses Have Died of COVID

Ralph Ellis

November 03, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

At least 1,500 nurses across the globe have died from the coronavirus, though the figure is almost certainly underestimated, the leader of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said.

"The fact that as many nurses have died during this pandemic as died during World War I is shocking," said Howard Catton, CEO of the nurses organization. "Since May 2020 we have been calling for the standardized and systematic collection of data on health care worker infections and deaths, and the fact that is still not happening is a scandal."

"2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, and I am sure she would have been immensely saddened and angry about this lack of data - I know I am."

The number of nursing deaths was collected from only 44 nations in the world, Catton said during the Nightingale 2020 virtual conference. In August, the number was 1,097, he said.

The ICN's own analysis of data suggests 20,000 health care workers have died worldwide, but weaknesses in data collection make it impossible to know, he said.

"Florence demonstrated during the Crimean War how the collection and analysis of data can improve our understanding of risks to health, improve clinical practices and save lives, and that includes nurses and healthcare workers," Catton said.

Johns Hopkins University says 46 million people have been infected worldwide and 1.2 million have died of virus-related reasons.

Catton urged governments to work together for a global response to the pandemic.

"I genuinely believe that global has never been more local in terms of the challenges we are facing, the lessons we need to learn and the solutions we seek," he said.

"For example, getting personal protective equipment across borders requires governments to work together on customs and control issues, and when we have a vaccine, getting it to everybody who needs it, rather than just those who can afford to pay for it, will require multilateralism and cooperation."

The ICN represents more than 130 national nursing associations with 20 million members in the world.


International Council of Nurses. "ICN confirms 1,500 nurses have died from COVID-19 in 44 countries and estimates that healthcare worker COVID-19 fatalities worldwide could be more than 20,000"


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