Yesterday, May 12, the world paused on International Nurses Day (IND) to salute nurses and reflect on the invaluable role they play as the backbone of health systems around the world.
Nurses here in St Vincent and the Grenadines were recognised this week with a series of events, starting last Saturday with an ‘Award of Excellence Cocktail Ceremony’ put on by the Community Health Services and held at the Prime Minister’s official residence (see page 32). The ceremony recognised health care workers for their ‘hard work and for going beyond the call of duty’, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the eruption of La Soufriere.
For the few among us who may not, prior to the pandemic, have had a good appreciation of the roles nurses play in society and our overall health and wellbeing, the COVID-19 pandemic brought it all home to us. As stated by the International Council of Nurses: “From birth to death, non-communicable diseases to infection disease, mental health to chronic conditions, in hospitals, communities and homes, nurses provide accessible, affordable, person-centred, holistic care for all.”
This year’s theme for IND was: ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health’, and focused on the need to protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world.
And just as the pandemic opened our eyes to the indispensability of nurses, it also exposed weaknesses caused by underinvestment in health systems around the world.
The theme for IND 2022 demonstrates the 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.
The Covid-19 pandemic, with which the world is still grappling, has been catastrophic for global health. But through all the turmoil, fears, and deaths, the vast majority of nurses, here and around the world, did not abandon their posts. They held fast to their calling to be the angels at our sides when we are most in need of divine intervention. Anyone whose hand has been reassuringly held by a nurse when we were brought down by illness can attest to the difference such small gestures of compassion can make.
When we see them at the side of the road, travelling to and from our hospitals, health centres and nursing homes, nurses might indeed appear as ordinary people who do ordinary things on the job. But in that fragile line between life and death nurses are far from ordinary.
Within the wards of care that nurses patrol for hours on end they stand at the critical junction of life and death, providing care despite technical, physical and psychological challenges they may confront. Every day the nurses face the possibility of patients dying. Every day they face the reality of human suffering. But through their daily exposure to human mortality and morbidity they bring hope, they bring relief, and they do this while subordinating their own very human needs and challenges, including mental and physical exhaustion.
We must protect, support and invest in the nursing profession in order to strengthen health systems here in SVG and around the world.