Today is International Nurses Day and it is great to be celebrating nurses around the world in this Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It is also a time when the role of all health professionals, including nurses, is being recognised in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now 29 years since I qualified as a nurse and worked as a nursing auxiliary prior to commencing my training, so have been nursing for over 30 years. I wanted to be a nurse from a young age and received a child’s nurses’ uniform for my 5th birthday which I wore with pride and could regularly be seen treating my dolls and even my mum when she would let me!
Whilst I have seen many developments in nursing and the role of the nurse since I started, I know that I have been lucky and worked in an area that respected and empowered nurses. Yet, with my work globally in palliative care through ICPCN I know that this is not the case all around the world. In some places nursing is not respected, it is seen as a menial job, where the nurses do what they are told, and education levels are poor. As a nurse working in palliative care, I see my role not just to promote and develop palliative care, but also to empower and inspire nurses around the world.
The State of the Worlds Nursing Report 2020 reiterates the central role of nurses in achieving Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’. Nursing is the largest occupational group in the health sector, accounting for 59% of the health professionals, with a global workforce for 27.9 million.
The report goes on to urge governments and stakeholders to:
- Invest in nursing education to address global needs and respond to changing technologies and advancing models of integrated health and social care;
- Create at least 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030, particularly in low- and middle-income countries; and to
- Strengthen nurse leadership – both current and future leaders, to ensure nurses have an influential role.
Are we seizing those opportunities? Within palliative care the role of the nurse has been well established in many places, often with nurses leading the way. This is seen around the world as nurses are recognising the great need for palliative care for both children and adults, where they are seizing the opportunity to develop services, create innovative and developing roles. There are numerous examples from around the world including those in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Australia, the UK, the USA, Canada, Argentina, Chile, India, to name but a few. As I have travelled around the world meeting nurses working in children’s palliative care, I have had the privilege of meeting so many inspiring nurses, learning from them, and hopefully empowering them in some way.
COVID-19 has brought its own challenges for each of us. It has highlighted the work of everyone working in the health and social care sectors, the need for palliative care, and the importance of each of us working together as a team to provide the care needed. As nurses we have a vital role in this and in the ongoing provision of palliative care. Issues of education, nursing roles and leadership, highlighted in the state of the world’s nursing report are also key for us in palliative care as we move forward to ensure that every person (children and adults) has access to palliative care that needs it, so no-one is left behind.