Nursing the world back to health
By Eunice Ndirangu | May 13th 2020
Yesterday, nurses all over the world were supposed to be celebrating International Nurses Day. However, because of the prevailing circumstances, the nurses were likely shuffling in and out of wards, preparing to spend days and nights in critical care units, spending time in labs or nursing homes or within communities taking care of patients at the grassroots. As nurses mark this day, some may not even have time to take a break and enjoy the day with their peers and colleagues.
Nonetheless, this does not diminish the importance of this day to the nursing community. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) State of the World’s Nursing report released this year, nurses are the largest occupational group in the health sector, accounting for 59 per cent of the health profession. This is part of the reason why WHO declared 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, to acknowledge the crucial role that nurses play in healthcare systems.
The pandemic has brought to the fore the key role that nurses and midwives play and the risks they face every day to ensure that patients and their families are well taken care of. When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya, nurses and midwives found themselves at the forefront of dealing with the pandemic. Though motivated and committed to providing care in the face of the deadly virus, the risks that they face are real. Some healthcare professionals have contracted the virus while in the line of duty, while the rest face stigma from their families and colleagues due to fear of contagion. Nurses and midwives too, have to deal with the reality of getting infected in the course of providing care to those who need it the most. Moreover, nurses and midwives still have families to go home to after a tedious day, therefore putting their own families at risk. Indeed, International Nurses Day presents an opportunity for everyone to understand the risks that health professionals face daily while trying to preserve human lives.
The theme for this year’s International Nurses Day is “Nursing the world to health”, which is very timely because of the health-related challenges we have faced so far. The Nurses Day celebrates Florence Nightingale’s date of birth, who nearly two centuries ago demonstrated the invaluable role of handwashing and hygiene in disease prevention, reduction of mortality and morbidity. Today, nurses and midwives are driving these very principles in a bid to deal with the pandemic.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all nurses and midwives, wherever you are serving from. We appreciate your service, leadership, decision-making and contribution to research. Your compassion and commitment to care even in the most challenging times is commendable. I urge governments and policymakers all over the world to support nurses and midwives in every way. Let us increase nursing jobs, enhance compensation, provide equal opportunities for nurses and midwives in leadership and policy formulation, improve working conditions and make it easier for nurses to do their jobs effectively. Investing in nursing and midwifery is a key step towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Drawing on the recommendations of the State of the World’s Nursing report by WHO, I wish to encourage every nurse and midwife to pursue professional development, collaborate and contribute to government and government bodies, join professional associations and serve diligently. As you continue to nurse the world to health, do not forget to take care of yourselves as well. I wish you the best as you mark this day with your families, workmates, patients and associations as you observe the various government directives. We stand with you!
Dr Ndirangu is the Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Aga Khan University and Chairperson of the Nursing Council of Kenya. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the writer
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