World Health Day: The Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020

Posted on April 07, 2020

At the dawn of 2019, the World Health Organization, under the stewardship of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made an official proposal to declare 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. This proposition was supported by religious icons such as Pope Francis during the Angelus prayer on 19 January 2020.

When these propositions for the Year of the Nurse and Midwife were made, the intention was to bring awareness to the profound impact that nurses and midwives have in the lives of the public. Nobody ever thought or predicted that the turn of events seen in 2020 would amplify and promote the role of nurses across the globe. By definition, in South Africa, a nurse is a person registered in a category under section 31(1) of the Nursing Act to practice either nursing or midwifery. From its conception, nursing is known to be both science and art.   

The history of nursing tells us that 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the first Nurse Scientist who initiated the evolution of nursing. Thanks to her efforts, Nurse Scientists delved into the depths of science to position nursing as a profession. Now, across the globe, the nursing profession is rooted in its duty to humanity, as endorsed by the Nurses’ Pledge of Service. 

Closer to home, nursing in South Africa is guided by the philosophical beacons of light that form the core principles of nursing. Pioneered by Prof. Charlotte Searle, these beacons outline the myriad of values that guide nursing activities and their service to humankind. According to these beacons, nursing is:  

  • A belief that nurses are charged with responsibility for themselves and their patients
  • Faith for inner strength to help them in their work
  • yearning to be a worthy servant of humanity 
  • Acceptance of the uniqueness of each human being and their health needs
  • Transcending the nurse-patient relationship to one between human beings
  • Conservation of human life through change 
  • Assistance and support to both patients and those rendering care
  • Technology in the use of scientific skills in the provision of care
  • Therapeutic use of the self as it is love made visible. 

Given the current pandemic, it was not by chance that this year has been declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Throughout the ages, nurses and midwives have been on the frontline coming up with practical solutions to solve real and relevant health problems. The trend traces back to the Crimean War when a nurse advocated for basic sanitary practices to underscore the medical assistance for the injured soldiers. We can trace through history how these extraordinary people with extraordinary skills have and continue to improve patient care and health outcomes. During the 1939 polio outbreak, again, it was a nurse who recommended that movement and physical therapy be integrated into the management of the disease. Recently during the Ebola outbreak, a nurse used what was at hand to protect herself while taking care of those infected. The list can go on and on about what nurses and midwives are capable of as the backbone of our healthcare system. 

We know and believe that nurses and midwives change lives daily.

In this time of uncertainty, nurses will continue to hold the frontline as members of transdisciplinary teams around the world to come up with fast-paced responses for the COVID-19 pandemic. Transdisciplinarity in healthcare provision has never been more critical than right now. Through collective resilience and adaptability, humankind will survive the pandemic as we forged to the unknown. Through inclusive responses that put people first, the teams will collaborate to solve this life-threatening disease. Collaboratively, as nurses and the members of strong TD teams let us preach the means and ways to flatten the curve of COVID -19. 

Despite the uncertainty, we face globally, let us celebrate The Year of the Nurse and Midwife with hope and pride. 



Gurses, A P, Tscuhudy, M. T, McGrath-Morrow, S., Husain, A., Solomon,B.S.,  Gerohistodoulus, K.,  & Kim, J.M.  2020.  Overcoming   COVID -19: What can human factors and ergonomics offer? Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management 0(0)1-6

Johnson and Johnson Nursing (2020) Access from @ JNJNursing) 26 March 2020. 

Searle, C. 1968. A South African Nursing Credo. Pretoria. The South African Nursing Association

- Author Prof MD Mogale
Published by Mmane Boikanyo

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