International Nurses Day 2021: A day for health workers helping us in Covid

International Nurses Day is a day observed every year on May 12 to honour nurses. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) celebrated the day for the first time in 1965. In 1953, a US health, education and welfare department official, Dorothy Sunderland, proposed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to proclaim a "Nurses' Day" which he did not approve.

In 1974, May 12 was chosen to celebrate the day as it is the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Apart from being a nurse, Nightingale was a social reformer and a statistician. She came into prominence for her contributions as a nurse during the Crimean War. During the war, she was serving as a manager and trainer of nurses and she was instrumental in organising care for wounded soldiers at Constantinople. Due to her efforts, nursing got a favourable reputation and she became an icon of Victorian culture. In 1860, the foundation of modern nursing was laid with the establishment of Nightingale’s nursing school at St Thomas Hospital in London.

It was the first secular nursing school in the world which later became part of King’s College London. Due to her pioneering efforts, the Nightingale Pledge which is taken by new nurses, and the Florence Nightingale Medal which is the highest international recognition for nurses, were named in her honour. She also made efforts for improving the health condition of all sections of British society, advocated for better hunger relief for India, and helped in abolishing prostitution laws in Britain that were considered harsh for women.

It was only fitting that the International Nurses Day was named after Nightingale.

Significance of the day

In 2020 and 2021, we have seen the devastations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In almost two years since the pandemic began in 2020, the world has seen over 160 million coronavirus cases and over 3 million deaths worldwide. The pandemic has burdened our health infrastructure unlike ever before. However, despite the magnitude of the situation, our health workers —  doctors, nurses and others — have been at the forefront fighting the virus and saving lives. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system who have been risking their lives for months. Despite their importance to our health infrastructure, there is an urgent shortage of nurses worldwide despite them constituting more than half of the health workers, according to the World Health Organization. According to ICN, more than 1.6 million health workers in 34 countries were infected by Covid-19 as of 31st December, 2020.

Amid this backdrop, the International Nurses Day 2021 assumes great significance to express our deep gratitude for nurses and health workers around the world. The theme for the 2021 is Nurses: A Voice to Lead - A vision for future healthcare.

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