The International Council of Nurses (ICN) theme for International Nurses Day 2022 is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health”. The ICN is asking for more focus on protecting, supporting and investing in the nursing profession so that nurses can, in turn, strengthen health systems around the world. Globally, nurses form the largest group of health professionals, which means if investment is made in nursing, economies of scale can be achieved. As the ICN states, COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses caused by underinvestment in health systems, so there is a need to invest in nursing to build a resilient, highly qualified nursing workforce and to protect nurses’ rights in order to transform health systems to meet the needs of individuals and communities now and into the future.
We only need to consider how COVID-19 has affected Northlanders to see how the lack of global health investment has a long reach. The World Health Organisation warns other pandemics are likely if inequities in resource allocation persist. Nurses have an important role to play in representing the voices of our communities, so it’s important that we harness our collective energy to influence political decisions so that future threats, such as pandemics do not materialise.
While global future thinking has the potential to limit what happens locally, nurses continue are there to support individuals and their whānau when that thinking fails to prevent negative health effects in communities. We have seen how nurses have responded to the call for help during COVID-19, but as ICN President Dr Pamela Cipriano said, “Nurses have suffered tremendously throughout the pandemic. They have been unnecessarily exposed to the virus, faced attacks from the public, suffered from extreme workloads, and continue to be underpaid and undervalued. If governments continue to put off investing in the health workforce, it will be to the detriment of health systems everywhere. There is no health without a health workforce!”
Despite this bleak commentary on the state of nursing, there is plenty of evidence to support nursing as an attractive and valued profession in New Zealand. According to Research New Zealand, nurses consistently rate in the top three professions for New Zealanders’ trust and confidence and nurses form a critical component of health services. Health services are of such value to New Zealand society that the funding committed by Government to the sector is second only to that committed to social security and welfare.
Feedback from patients and their whānau on the care they received from nurses at Northland DHB is overwhelmingly positive. Northland DHB regularly receives comments such as
“Nurses were efficient, friendly and most importantly, informative. Nursing staff deport with the utmost professionalism, very accommodating. Even though I abhor hospitals, it really was made bearable with our nurses” and
“I had an awesome nurse who made my stay so much more bearable… truly amazing!”.
I often receive comments about nurses not just from patients and their families whānau but from your non-nurse colleagues. I hear about how supportive you are of them and how you go the extra mile to ensure the services provided here at Northland DHB are safe and of a high quality.
This past year has been immensely challenging for you all. Not only have you had increased workloads to contend with, but many of you have also had COVID-19 in your households and, for some, suffered from COVID-19 yourselves. I’ve heard your concerns about the wellbeing of your colleagues and about patient care being compromised. I haven’t heard you voicing your own stress, which I know has been enormous, especially in these first few months of 2022. This lack of focus on self epitomises the character of nurses – others before self.
Others before self bring us back to the origins of International Nurses’ Day, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Florence is known in history as the person who gave nursing its professional status. Florence did this by exemplifying the same selflessness that Northland nurses have brought to the fore during this pandemic. International Nurses’ Day provides the opportunity for nurses to be recognised for not only the work you do and for the care you demonstrate but for the character that you bring with you to work every day.
So take time on International Nurses’ Day to recognise and celebrate your contribution to the profession of nursing.
Happy International Nurses’ Day.