International Nurses Day highlights the innovative and tough work of nurses  

International Nurses Day is celebrated on 12 May each year, to mark the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. This year the theme is Nurses: A Voice to Lead - A Vision for Future Healthcare, and here and around the world nurses have led by example.  

Nurses were the cornerstone of our pandemic battle, with nurses making sure the most vulnerable and isolated Australians were cared for, all the while working in personally challenging conditions to keep us all safe. They tested us for COVID-19, treated those worst affected, and comforted the dying. And with patients isolated due to their illness, it was often a nurse, not family, who was there by their side to the end.  

There are more than 82,000 primary health care nurses in Australia, and they make up more than half of our health workforce. Even before the pandemic nurses were at higher risk of stress. They are placed in compromising situations, witness traumatic and critical incidents. 

Recently the International Council of Nurses also drew attention to evidence showing mental health issues and physiological impacts on nurses stemming from their work during the pandemic. The ICN called this the “mass traumatisation” of the global nursing workforce and called on governments to act now to support nurses and address these issues.  

Close to 80% of the ICN’s national nursing associations have reported mental health distress from nurses working in the COVID-19 response. The causes included inadequate personal protective equipment, fear of spreading the virus, high workloads, increased violence against nurses, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Many nurses also reported they had experienced discrimination or prejudice amid the spread of the virus, felt overwhelmed, and had difficulty sleeping. 

The ICN estimates the COVID-19 effect, added to the present shortages and ageing of the nursing workforce, could lead to a shortfall of up to 13 million nurses by 2030. The effect is real and risks damaging the nursing profession for generations to come.  

This International Nurses Day there will be a range of activities across the country. Nurses are also encouraged to submit their own stories.

On this important day, Flourish Australia would like to thank these tireless workers for their expertise, professionalism, and quick-thinking.