Florence Nightingale, referred to fondly as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’, is credited as the founder of modern nursing. As Nightingale prepared her nurses to face the suffering and devastation of the Crimean War, little did she know that less than 200 years later, nurses in the 21st century would be fighting a war of their own. Both wars, however different in their format and initiation, resulted in death, devastation, isolation and changed the world as we know it. One thing remains the same- nurses are always on the frontline.
Today, Tuesday, May 12th 2020 is International Nurses Day. It is the bicentennial anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, a day to pay tribute, to acknowledge the medical and scientific advances made by nurses worldwide and to honour the importance of the profession in the world’s healthcare system. It’s that last statement that gets my blood boiling – on this one day every year we should ‘honour the importance of the profession’. I can say with confidence that those who have suffered, recovered and passed away since the beginning of the COVID 19 Pandemic in Ireland would say that they have honoured the work of the nurses every second, of every hour and of every day. The theme for International Nurses Day 2020 is A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health - focusing on the true value of nurses to the people of the world. Is it only now when there is a pandemic that we, the public, are noticing and appreciating the value of nurses?
I am a General Nurse and our current climate has roused so many emotions in me.
I am angry that my MS has prevented me from stepping up to the frontline and assisting and supporting my professional colleagues in a time of crisis and need. I am frustrated by the people who are glorifying frontline staff but failed to stand beside us when we went on strike. Will you still be there to support us when this all ends? When our newly qualified nurses no longer have contracts and have to leave the country? I am disappointed in those who failed to protect the most vulnerable in our nursing homes. I am at a loss as to why the government won’t help frontline staff with childcare costs. I am filled with respect for those who selflessly care for others, who risk their life every day since this pandemic began. I am proud of the nursing profession who have delved into unknown waters to keep our country safe. I am in awe of those heroes who are nursing the world back to health.
Has it taken a pandemic to truly appreciate the work of the nursing profession? I believe so. Will the end of this pandemic result in future recruitment and retention of nursing staff, better pay and work conditions? For that I can only hope.
Our MS Clinical Nurse Specialists have had to adapt their professional roles and responsibilities due to COVID 19. They are now working not only as nurses but as administrators, phone operators, IT personnel, counsellors, advisors – they have had to take on roles unknown to them and they have had to develop new skills. They have expanded their own roles to meet the needs of their patients at such an uncertain time. But they haven’t been allocated any additional staff or any additional funding. The backlog of patients with MS remains the same – it’s just now taking on a virtual format.
The delivery of healthcare and the role of the nursing profession will forever be impacted by COVID 19. For me, International Nurses Day is just another commercial holiday – another Valentines or Mother’s Day to join the masses and share the emotional social media posts for one day, for just 24 hours. I can only hope that when we see the light at the end of the COVID 19 tunnel that we will continue to appreciate and recognise the resilience, bravery and significance of the nursing profession and the vital role they have played in this war.