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Nursing our health carers

  • 21 May 2024
  On Sunday 12 May was International Nurses Day. Despite the preponderance of international days for things from International Cheesecake Day on 30 July to International Hug a Plumber Day on 25 April (and you thought that day was just to remember the Anzacs), a day to thank nurses is no bad thing.

International Nurses Day commemorates the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This 19th-century Englishwoman defied convention to work as a nurse, most famously during the Crimean War. Of more importance, however, was her work after the war in establishing the profession of nursing, and the founding of the first secular nursing school. Much like the genealogical charts beloved of programs devoted to finding one’s ancestors, such as Who do you think you are?, we can draw a direct line from Nightingale and her starched-uniformed, sensible-shoed trainees to today’s scrubs-and-runners-wearing nurses in our hospitals and clinics.

Over the past six months I’ve had several occasions to become familiar with this modern iteration of nursing. Family members keep breaking limbs or having asthma attacks – so I keep visiting hospitals. As each visit has been made with an overlay of worry and concern, I’ve been grateful for the help and concern shown by those charged with tending the patients.

Always there was care and professionalism and no outward sign of the stress that is bedevilling the medical professions as fewer people are being asked to shoulder more and more burdens.

While acknowledging there is room for improvement in the system, with each visit I’ve been tremendously grateful for a country that offers such easy and free access to health care. It’s true there are problems – long waiting lists and people in remote and regional areas are not as well served as those in the cities – but it’s also true that emergency care is freely available.

More can always be done, of course. Funding measures in this week’s Federal Budget were welcomed by the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) ‘as recognition by the government of the vital and significant role of nurses and nursing in providing quality health care for all Australians’.

In a press release, interim ACN CEO emeritus professor Leanne Boyd said the Budget contained measures that respected nursing and recognised the valued role that nurses played across the health system.

This year’s International Nurses Day aimed to reshape perceptions of nursing and demonstrate how strategic investment in nursing can bring considerable economic and societal benefits.

As someone who