When the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, it could not have foreseen the health crisis that would engulf the world. 2020 also marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – the world’s most famous nurse and founder of modern nursing.
Her pioneering work was born out of crisis – war. And so it is today that nurses around the world and in Australia are once again on the frontline and in a war – this time against the dreadful coronavirus.
Here in Australia, our nurses are playing a crucial role across the patient care spectrum. They are working in respiratory clinics, providing important support, comfort and guidance to people who are worried and frightened about whether they have COVID-19. They are delivering care to people in their homes so they can stay well – particularly people with chronic conditions. In aged care, nurses are helping to put in place vital infection control processes to protect the elderly. Nurses are very much at the frontline in the intensive care units, where the nurse is the person who is at the bedside of the most vulnerable, 24 hours, seven days a week.
It’s not widely recognised that nurses make up the largest segment in our health workforce. Registered nurses comprise the largest health care occupation. In 2018, there were around 276,000 registered nurses in Australia.