Sunday, May 10, 2020

International Nurses Day, May 12th

May 12 is recognised as International Nurses Day, the birth date of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. Between 31 July to 13 August 1850, Nightingale made her first visit to the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, a training school for women teachers and nurses. Her visit convinced Nightingale of the possibilities of making nursing a vocation for women.

In 1851 she spent four months at Kaiserswerth, training as a sick nurse, and passed her nursing exam. She became one of the most important pioneers in modern nursing. Today,  Kaiserswerth has the "Florence Nightingale" hospital, with two centres for the elderly, colleges for social and pedagogical education, schools of nursing and geriatric care; pedagogic facilities for children, teenagers and adults, an institute of continuing education, with more than 1400 people in many professions, including the deaconesses from the world's first "Mutterhaus" which was founded in 1836 in the centre ot Kaiserswerth.

This year is the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale's birth. She championed the need for good personal sanitation and hand hygiene. In 1854, she was asked to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. More soldiers were dying from infectious diseases like typhoid and cholera than from injuries incurred in battle. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling to ensure more sanitary conditions in the hospital.

Nightingale herself fell ill from Crimean fever in 1855, and was dangerously ill for 12 days. Though she never fully recovered, she was able to continue her trailblazing work that greatly impacted 19th and 20th century policies around proper medical care.

The theme of International Nurses Day 2020 is 'nursing the world to health', with a focus on the 'true value of nurses to the people of the world', and especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tragically, a number of nurses have lost their lives treating and caring for COVID-19 patients. In the UK alone, more than 100 NHS staff and health care workers have succumbed to the virus, with hundreds more health care workers dying worldwide. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month said data suggests that healthcare workers account for about 11% of all COVID-19 infections. In Spain the figure was more than 13%. As of a week ago about 17,000 health care workers in Italy had been infected with the coronavirus, more than two-thirds of them women.

There are many of our diaconal community around the world who have trained as nurses, and we honour their work. Thank you.

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