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International Nurses Day: Nurses a Force for Change

Royal College, London
Royal College, London
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

According to Congresswoman, Lois Capps of California, “Nurses serve their patients in the most important capacities. We know that they serve as our first lines of communication when something goes wrong or when we are concerned about our health.”

Born May 12, 1820, Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing. After tending to wounded soldiers on the battlefields during the Crimean War, she became known as the Lady of the Lamp. She would make her rounds of the wounded at night, carrying a lamp. After the war, Nightingale founded a nursing school in at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. The nursing school is now part of Kings College in London.

Nurses today still take the Nightingale pledge, a statement of ethics and guiding principles for nursing: the pledge vows to “abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous” and to “zealously seek to nurse those who are ill wherever they may be and whenever they are in need.” The pledge was revised in 1935, and now states, the aim for each nurse to become a ‘missioner for health, dedicated to the advancement of human welfare.” This addition to the pledge broadened the focus of nursing from the private sector to nursing’s role in public health.

On May 12, the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightengale, the International Council of Nurses commemorates this event by celebrating International Nurses Day. “Nurses, A Force for Change” is this year’s theme. “An educated nurse workforce + a good work environment=high quality care”, which according to the International Council of Nurses, is vital at both the local and global levels as fundamental for providing qualty health care for all people.

According to Florence Nightengale, “Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.” We have probably all had experiences where nurses have been supportive, informative, comforting, and in many cases, angels of mercy at times of great distress or crisis. For all those nurses who dedicate their lives to helping not only the patients they tend but also the families and friends of those who are part of the patient’s lives. Nurses are there at the most remarkable times of our lives, and vital to what makes any health care system operate effectively, efficiently, and compassionately.

The International Council of Nurses helps unify the message of nursing’s vital role. Some of the programs they are involved in include the following:

Counterfeit Medications

Girl Child Education Fund

Noncommunicable Disease Awareness, Treatment, and Prevention

Positive practice environment for health care workers.

“Patients and the public have the right to the highest performance from health care professionals and this can only be achieved in a workplace that enables and sustains a motivated well-prepared workforce.”

Some actions steps necessary for providing and maintaining positive health care environments for all health care workers.

On this International Nurses Day, let us be reminded of the commitment to increase and support patient education and information. Let us support nursing’s aim to be responsible for greater patient awareness and responsibility for being informed about their own health and healthcare. Let your friends who are nurses know how much you appreciate what they do for your community. Take time to let a nurse know how much you appreciate what they do for you and your family and loved ones. Take steps to act on the feeling of gratitude you might have for the loving support of a maternity nurse when you first held your child and couldn’t figure out how to nurse correctly. Show your appreciation for a nurse who has stayed up with you throughout a nighttime vigil in ICU or at the death bed of a loved one.

Take time to show a little appreciation for the nurse who helped comfort your child, and allay your fears when you spent a night in emergency with your little one. Nursing demands much from those who take on the challenges of this noble calling. We all expect so much from the nurses we come into contact, and for the most part, we are often given much more than we can imagine possible in our encounters with nurses. Nurses do their work out of a drive to take a vital role in the health of individuals and the whole community. Thank a nurse today, and support better working conditions for all health care workers in your community year round.

“Nursing care comes in many forms. Sometimes it is the ability to make someone feel physically comfortable by various means. Other times it is the ability to improve the body’s ability to achieve or maintain health. But often it is an uncanny yet well honed knack to see beyond the obvious and address, in some way, the deeper needs of the human soul.” ~Donna Wilk Cardillo, A Daybook for Beginning Nurses

To do what nobody else will do, a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through; is to be a nurse. - Rawsi Williams