Today being International Women’s Day, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe has reported that, in the WHO European Region, women comprise the majority of the health workforce, heavily surpassing the 50-50 gender breakdown for physicians and other segments of the health workforce.
Despite this, WHO highlighted that inequalities still persist and there are barriers facing female employees when it comes to achieving leadership positions, accessing income equality and overcoming gender stereotypes regarding ‘suitable’ roles for women in healthcare. In addition, in the European Region women perform three times more unpaid work than men.
Although these challenges persist, women leaders in the health sector are innovating for change by helping to build strong health systems and finding solutions to improve the lives of the people they serve. WHO provides an example of this in the form of Tikva, a nurse from Israel, who is among the pioneering nurse practitioners in palliative care in her country. “Nurse practitioners like Tikva are leaders with vision who provide health services that encompass clinical expertise, empathy and caring. They create an environment of safety, quality care and collaboration with doctors, and also empower patients to be active participants in their own care,” said Shoshy Goldberg, Chief Nursing Officer in Israel.
After completing a basic course in Israel, Tikva got a Master’s degree in palliative care from the UK (this was not available in Israel) and went on to do a doctorate in nursing related to advance directives that tell healthcare providers and family about the medical care a person would or would not want if the person became terminally ill and was unable to speak for themselves. She started a pilot project for patients with pancreatic or lung cancer that has grown over the past six years and highlighted the importance of palliative care.
“I think we need to be humble – humble enough to be critical of our own work, as well as to take criticism from others and view it as important feedback. This is vital in palliative care, which is a multidisciplinary environment,” Tikva said. “I feel fortunate to be doing this work – I view it as both my duty and a pleasure.”