Unlocking Better Healthcare: How Countries Plan for Enough Skilled Health Workers Using WISN Method

This text is based on the article Global experiences in health workforce policy, planning and management using the Workload Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN) method, and way forward, Originally published in 'Human Resources for Health' on 28 January 2022

Healthcare professionals constitute the backbone of our healthcare system, and the extent of their availability, accessibility, and expertise directly impacts the effectiveness of our healthcare services. The World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to ensuring that countries develop robust plans for their health workforce, underpinned by data and factual information. This commitment is encapsulated in the expansive Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health (GSHRH) 2030, aimed at fostering effective leadership and policies to adeptly manage the health workforce in countries. Additionally, the WHO aligns its efforts with global aspirations, as articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to elevate and enhance the health workforce worldwide.

The significance of health workers became particularly evident last year during COVID-19. Traditional methods of health workforce planning, relying on simplistic ratios and benchmarks, have proven inadequate. In response, the WHO has introduced the Workload Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN) tool, a sophisticated tool akin to an intelligent calculator utilizing real-time data on the activities and available time of health workers. This tool is gaining traction globally, aiding countries in determining the requisite number of health workers and their optimal placement.

Now, the Workload Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN) methodology is turning into a crucial tool in the field of health workforce planning and management. This comprehensive methodology provides decision-makers with a more accurate assessment of staffing requirements, enabling them to determine the right mix of health professionals needed to meet the diverse healthcare needs of a population. WISN's flexibility allows it to be applied across various levels of healthcare facilities, in both routine and emergency settings, and for a wide range of healthcare occupations. It plays a vital role in optimizing healthcare delivery, improving equitable distribution of workers, revising staffing norms, and enhancing information systems, ultimately contributing to the goal of achieving accessible, high-quality healthcare services for all.

As we navigate the post-COVID-19 era, meticulous planning for health workers becomes paramount, and the WISN tool emerges as an integral component of this strategy. It collaborates with other initiatives undertaken by countries to guarantee an adequate and well-distributed health workforce, ultimately safeguarding the health of our communities.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.