Blog post

Time to celebrate and support nurses around the globe

By Guy Collins - 11 May 2021

Our acclaimed pioneer

On 12 May, we mark and celebrate International Nurses’ Day. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the birth of one of the acclaimed pioneers of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Born in Florence, Italy, she grew up near Matlock in Derbyshire and she is probably the most well-known nurse in the world. There have, of course, been many other nurses across history who made a significant contribution to the profession. But that is probably another blog in itself.

Today, nurses and midwives work in a variety of specialities. Some are high profile and seen as fast paced, lifesaving and even arguably glamorous by media portrayals. Other nurses apply their professional skills in less well-known specialities but of equal value and impact in making a difference to the lives of the people they assist. Nurses support life, health, and wellbeing from the cradle to the grave. They care and treat people during illness or injury, support people with their mental health every day and in times of personal crisis. They care for critically ill children and ensure that every child has the best start in life. They enable people with learning disabilities to have independence and lead fulfilling lives.

Recognising the sacrifice

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen nurses at the forefront in the fight against the disease. They preserve life and enable recoveries. According to the International Council of Nurses, as of the 31 December 2020, more than 1.6 million healthcare workers in 34 countries had been infected by Covid-19. These figures continue to rise as further waves of the virus spread across continents and nurses battle to stem the loss of lives of their patients.

During the pandemic, there has rightly been considerable media exposure of nurses working within the acute hospital setting. We should recognise the daily sacrifices, turmoil, and stress that these nurses have endured.

We also need to recognise that nurses working beyond the acute hospital setting have continued to practice during the pandemic. They have often had to discover new ways of working to enable people to receive care remotely via the internet or in person in their own homes. Without the skilled dedication of these often unsung and forgotten nurses, many more people would have suffered poorer physical and mental health as a consequence of the pandemic.

A return to practice

Like many nursing academic colleagues, I have returned to clinical practice at the weekends in my ‘spare time’ to assist with the national vaccination programme. I've worked alongside nurses who are covering extra clinical shifts, those reassigned from other roles within the health service, returning recently retired nurses, and some of our own nursing students who have stepped forward outside of their academic studies and usual placement hours.

Across Derbyshire, like the rest of the country, nurses have had to respond rapidly with additional training and supporting the mammoth logistics associated with this vaccination programme. As we enter May 2021, the positive impacts of the vaccine rollout (despite the hurdles along the way) are taking us into brighter days with a greater sense of normality when we can spend times with our own loved ones and enjoying activities that had to be curtailed during the restrictions and national lockdowns.

We should not be complacent, however, and think that this fight against Covid is done and dusted. We need only see on the news that the pandemic continues to have a devastating impact across the globe and that nurses remain on the frontline against this unrelenting disease.

Pride - and thanks

As we celebrate International Nurses’ Day, as nurses in the UK, we need to see how we can support our fellow nursing colleagues around the globe as they endure the ravages of the virus. We must take every opportunity to halt any creeping complacency in our society and promote sustained proactive public health measures. At the same time, we must be ready to swiftly respond again as potential virus variant mutations may still lead to additional challenges further down the line.

Reflecting on International Nurses’ Day as nurses, we should be proud to celebrate what we do and acknowledge our nursing colleagues everywhere. If you’re reading this and you not a nurse but know someone that is, take the opportunity to thank them and others for not only what they have done during the pandemic but what they do each day in this country and across the globe in making a real difference for our health and wellbeing.

About the author

Guy Collins

Guy Collins
Senior Lecturer

Guy Collins is a Senior Lecturer and International Academic Lead for the College of Health and Social Care. He has over 25 years of professional nursing and teaching experience within the UK and overseas.

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