2020 was designated as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, in honor of Florence Nightingale (founder of modern nursing) and of the unyielding spirit of nurses. This year, during the virtual 73rd World Health Assembly, member states of the World Health Organization unanimously dubbed 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers (YHCW). This is in recognition of the sacrifice and dedication of millions of healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly nurses.
Member states from all over the world spoke about the continuing critical role of healthcare workers, especially throughout the past year— all the way through 2021. The pandemic was equivocal in its devastation, and across the globe, it was nurses and healthcare workers spearheading the battle.
Nurses are modern-day heroes
More than any other healthcare professionals, nurses spend more time caring for patients. Hospitals can’t function without them, yet it’s becoming an increasingly dangerous job. During the peak of the pandemic, the American Nurses Association surveyed 20,000 nurses and found that over half had to resort to reusing masks and treating patients with little to no personal protective equipment. By September 2020, 213 registered nurses in America had succumbed to the virus.
Many have also had to work insanely long hours, up to 16 hours per shift in hospitals. Lots of nurses had to transition to emergency care since emergency rooms (ERs) were starting to become overcrowded. Apart from ER nurses, public health nurses have been doubling their efforts to raise awareness about the virus; they even face physical threats from anti-maskers and people who believe that COVID is a hoax. And as some nursing homes became hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks, geriatric nurses also became highly sought-after.
Professionals that go on to these advanced-practice careers in nursing have dedicated at least three years to gain clinical experience and knowledge. What’s more, they go through further training and continuing programs to get certifications in their respective fields. The journey to get to where they are now has equipped them to handle serious health issues. This is evident in the roles they have had to play during the pandemic. America has much need for nurses, but roles are becoming harder to fill.
Honoring and supporting nurses
Throughout the pandemic, there have been many tributes to nurses. But these don’t always translate to better working conditions for them. Nurses have asked for better support and improved wages, but many hospitals and governments across the globe have been slow on the uptake. This resulted in many opting out of the profession.
What health systems need to do is address the immediate concerns of nurses by giving them much-needed support. They also need to create frictionless career paths for nurses that’ll lead them to senior leadership positions. This would attract students to explore a career in nursing and keep talents in the field. During this International YHCW, health systems should realize that addressing the nursing demand doesn’t just come down to producing more professionals. Health systems must invest in the nurses already in practice by educating them further and opening leadership roles for them. Nurses have done so much for the general public – it’s time to give back to them by ensuring a promising future.
Amidst the pandemic, it’s important to stay updated. Read up on the latest developments in health and fitness on our blog.