A little bit of history

In 1953 in the United States, a Department of Health, Education and Welfare official named Dorothy Sutherland, proposed that President Eisenhower proclaim a “Nurses’ Day” – but he did not approve it.

However, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has proceeded to recognise Nurses Day since 1965, and in January 1974, it was decided to hold the day on 12 May, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, generally regarded as the founder of modern nursing.

Each year, the ICN prepares and distributes the International Nurses’ Day Kit, which contains educational and public information materials, for use by nurses everywhere.

International significance

The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) use International Nurses Day to focus attention on the important task of recruiting and training nurses worldwide.

“Nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system. They account for more than half of the global health workforce and are vital for realizing the vision of universal health coverage,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“But to achieve UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the world will need 9 million more nurses and midwives. WHO is proud to support ICN and the Nursing Now campaign to ensure we fill this critical gap.”

News from abroad shows that some countries are already grappling with this shortage – with England’s National Health Service appealing for more nurses from overseas to fill gaps in its service.

Meanwhile here in New Zealand, news arrived yesterday that aged care nurses have been added to Immigration New Zealand’s long-term skills shortage list, with effect from 27 May 2019.

This year’s theme

The theme of this year’s International Nurses Day is Nurses: A voice to lead – health for all.

“Nurses all over the world every day are advocating for Health for All in the most challenging circumstances with limited resources to deliver health care to those most in need,” said ICN President, Annette Kennedy.

“ICN believes that the time is ripe for nurses to assert their leadership. As the largest health profession across the world, working in all areas where health care is provided, nursing has vast potential and value if appropriately harnessed to finally achieve the vision of Health for All.”

Showcasing nurses’ innovative work from around the world, IND 2019 contains case studies which highlight the important role nurses play in ensuring everyone has access to the care they need. The report also highlights the need for nurses to bring their voices, and those of their patients, to the policy table.

“Advancing the leadership skills and policy influence of nurses is at the centre of ICN’s work” said Howard Catton, ICN’s CEO. “Ensuring that nurses have a voice in the development and implementation of health policy is fundamental to ensuring these policies are effective and meet the real needs of patients, families and communities around the world.”

Here in New Zealand

The New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) has tied this year’s theme in with its regional conventions, making nursing leadership a key focus of its discussions at these events, which are currently being held around New Zealand.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says, “These Conventions are always an opportunity to extend knowledge and communication amongst members within the region. Conventions discuss topical issues impacting on nursing and members and how those issues contribute to the global direction of nursing.”

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