A message from the Director of WRES Implementation in NHS England and deputy president of the RCN, Yvonne Coggill:
2020 is the international year of the nurse and midwife, a year where the whole world was going to join in celebrating the wonderful men and women that have chosen to be part of the professions. Who knew that this year we would end up celebrating nurses and midwives in a very different way, in a way that none of us ever expected?
Covid19 came to the West early in the new year and stopped all plans to celebrate our professions in their tracks. I believe that nurses and midwives worldwide have been put to the most serious challenging and dangerous test of their professional careers. This virus has brought new and unforeseen challenges to the health service and our nurses and midwives are rising to those challenges magnificently on a daily basis.
May 12 is International Day of the Nurse and usually it’s celebrated with talks, celebratory events and colleagues coming together to talk about and promote their profession. This year, it will be very different.
Covid-19 has seen unprecedented action taken by our government to lock the country down. As I write this blog, we will have been in lockdown for over seven weeks.. Throughout all of this, nurses and midwives everywhere are continuing to work their socks off to ensure patients are well cared for.
Since the Crimean war in in 1853, nurses like Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole have been at the forefront of caring for patients in difficult and trying situations. These early nursing pioneers ensured that injured soldiers who were far away from their homes and families were cared for, comforted and supported. Today’s nurses are doing exactly the same thing: caring for people in situations where family and friends cannot be close because of the virus and risk of infection.
Over recent weeks we have heard with increasing regularity and alarm that people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the virus and have watched with horror as some of our colleagues succumb to it and die. Black and ethnic minority nurses have been working in the NHS since its inception and have indeed helped to build the NHS into one of the best healthcare services in the world, we are an integral and important part of the NHS family. This is despite sometimes having a very different experience of the NHS than their white colleagues. Without the commitment of these nurses the NHS would not be able to deliver the care it does to all its patients and particularly at times like these.
This International Nurses Day, I think it’s incumbent on all of us to spend some time thinking about our nurses, what they have done in the past, what they are doing now and what we all know they will do in future. I suspect there won’t be time or the appetite for celebrations, however time must be found for reflection and remembrance. We owe it to our nursing colleagues past and present and especially those nurses that have lost their lives during this current crisis to spend a few moments thinking about our very special profession, who we are, what we do and why we do it.
To all nurses, wherever you are in the world, whatever your speciality and whoever you are caring for, directly or indirectly. Take very good care of yourselves and have a very good and reflective International Nurses Day.