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International Nurses’ Day- celebrating nursing leadership in the past, present and future

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International Nurses Day  takes place every year on the birthdate of Florence Nightingale, the 12th May, providing a platform to celebrate the significant role that nursing colleagues play across the globe. However, this year’s celebration feels different from those that I have taken part in previous years for so many reasons.

Firstly, we must acknowledge the human loss which has touched many of us as a result of the pandemic. Whether direct or indirect, too many people have lost their lives or are now living with ill-health. This drives me to want to learn from recent events and consider what needs to change to reduce preventable death, ill-health and to reduce the unacceptable health inequalities which COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus. Many colleagues are also still working tirelessly to respond to the increased need across our health and care systems, so may feel that there is no time for celebration.

Despite these challenges, I believe that we should still find time on the 12th May to stop and celebrate an incredible profession. Without nurses, the outcome of the pandemic would be very different. Nurses across the globe have and continue to show amazing courage, professionalism and leadership, in responding to the toughest challenges that the world has experienced in a lifetime.

I am immensely proud of the way that my profession has responded to the pandemic. Nurses have been centre stage in global efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19, such as those leading activities on infection prevention control, immunisations, contract tracing and providing care to those who are critically unwell, to name just a few. Many public health nurses have told me they’ve not felt that their roles have been as visible during the pandemic response. For that reason, I want to say a special thank you to you all! Today and always, we recognise your leadership and tireless efforts in preventing illness, promoting wellbeing and protecting health.

This year’s campaign is themed around  ‘A Voice to Lead – A Vision for Future Healthcare’. As we emerge from the acute phase of the pandemic, it will be vital for the nursing profession, and others, to reflect on the critical things we’ve learned over the past year or so. There is clear evidence that health and care systems across the globe will need to consider what actions must be taken to allow them to ‘build back better and fairer’ following the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the nursing profession, I believe this provides us with a critical opportunity to question if our current model allows us to achieve the correct level of commitment towards preventing illness, protecting health, promoting wellbeing and most importunately addressing unacceptable health inequalities. I would therefore challenge my profession to consider if the current nursing model goes far enough in putting an equal focus on preventing, promoting and protecting ill health as we do on treating it. This must change if we are to succeed in addressing premature death, preventable ill health and unfair health inequalities. We now need to use the 2020’s as the decade that sees transformation across the profession, which allows us to make real progress in challenging our practice, and increases our focus on improving and protecting the public’s health.

One way that nurses can get involved in this transformation, is by using the All Our Health resources and tools. Developed by public health leaders, the framework looks at critical public health issues of our time and provides bite-sized learning summaries of the actions which all health and care professionals can take in their day-to-day practice. Last year, we saw almost half a million launches of these resources, but this year we want to see this number grow much more. You can also access a range of resources via our World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Public Health Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions website.

Let me end by once again thanking my nursing colleagues from across the globe for everything that you do. I am immensely proud of our profession and recognise the impact that nursing colleagues make, not just today, but every second of every day. Now is our time to work together to consider what needs to change over the coming months and years to ensure that our profession continues to have a voice to lead as we shift our efforts on ‘building back better and fairer’.

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