As the world will observe International Nurses Day on Thursday, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi has paid homage to nurses across the world, describing the nursing profession as a “cornerstone of healthcare provision”.
International Nurses Day is celebrated annually around the world on 12 May, the anniversary of English nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale’s birth.
This year’s theme for the day from the International Council of Nurses (ICN) is: Nurses: A Voice To Lead – Invest in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health.
The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations, representing more than 28 million nurses worldwide.
‘First point of contact’
With the focus this year being on the need to invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world, Mokgethi said nurses were more often the first point of contact in healthcare provision.
She said nurses were key in providing healthcare services and health education to the public.
“We can never over emphasise the key role of nurses in healthcare provision. The past two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated this,” she said in a statement.
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“Despite fear and anxiety which was brought about by the new virus, and excessive workload, many nurses continued to show resilience as they went about their daily responsibility.”
The MEC further paid a special tribute to the nurses who succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years.
“As we mark the birth of Florence Nightingale, we wish to thank all nurses for your dedication, and commitment. We salute you!
“Many patients are forever grateful to you for the care during their illness and hospital stay,” said Mokgethi.
Mokgethi also called on the public to show more restraint when interacting with nurses and not take their frustration on them.
Significance of International Nurses Day
International Nurses Day first began in 1953 when Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the US department of health contacted President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposing he proclaim a “Nurses’ Day”.
However, Eisenhower did not approve her proposal at that time, according to Days Of The Year.
Despite this, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has celebrated Nurses’ Day on 12 May ever since 1965.
In January 1974, Nurses’ Day was finally officially made International Nurses Day and each year since then, the ICN prepares and distributes something called the International Nurses’ Day Kit which contains educational and public information materials, for use by nurses everywhere.
Sacrifices made by nurses
ICN president Dr Pamela Cipriano said reminded the world that nurses had given their all in the fight against Covid-19, Ebola, in disaster areas and in war zones.
Cipriano said despite this, nurses continued to face understaffing, lack of protection, heavy workloads, and low wages.
She called for the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality by investing in nursing.
“It is time now to take real action to address workplace safety, protect nurses and safeguard their physical and mental health,” Cipriano said.
“Women form 70% of the global health workforce, but only 25% of leadership roles. They bear the burden of lower-paid, undervalued jobs and unpaid care and domestic work. We can help to empower women and promote gender equality by investing in nursing.”
Cipriano said recent reports had shown that investment in nursing was needed now if the world is to meet the healthcare challenges of the future.
“We can no longer continue to undervalue and underinvest in nursing. Now is the time for action.
“We have the recommendations from WHO, which have been agreed by the Member States. We know what to do. We need to move on from the talk and see action to support our nurses – and that is exactly what ICN’s IND toolkit provides.”
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe