International Nurses Day: UP professors on unlocking the economic potential of nursing

Posted on May 14, 2024

International Nurses Day is observed annually around the world on 12 May, and coincides with Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The day aims to illuminate the vital role that nurses play in healthcare.

This year’s theme is ‘Our Future, Our Nurses: The Economic Power of Care’. This choice spotlights nursing not just a profession, but as an investment, challenging misconceptions about its economic and societal contributions, and confronting the issue of underfunding in the nursing sector.

On International Nurses Day, nurses unite to showcase the invaluable essence of their profession, and their pivotal role in maintaining health and robust health systems. It’s a moment to celebrate the spirit of nursing, to honour the dedication and passion of nurses, and to shed light on the hurdles they encounter.

In the intricate tapestry of global healthcare, nursing stands tall as its sturdy cornerstone, yet paradoxically, its economic worth often languishes in the shadows. This dilemma hinges partly on the perception of nursing as a divine calling rather than a professional pursuit. Research unveils a poignant truth: those who embrace nursing as a calling infuse their labour with profound meaning, fostering a compassionate and holistic ethos.

However, this noble notion of service to humanity carries burdensome implications, fostering an environment where subpar working conditions and meagre salaries are reluctantly accepted.

It’s high time that this illusion is shattered and nurses are recognised as the highly skilled artisans of health that they are – masters of their craft, weaving intricate care plans that illuminate the darkest corridors of illness. Across nations, those who invest in nursing reap bountiful rewards, witnessing flourishing healthcare systems nurtured by competitive salaries and conducive working environments.

Sadly, in our backyard, recognition remains elusive and remuneration unjust. Still, nurses persist as beacons of hope, illuminating the healthcare landscape with unwavering dedication. However, outdated remuneration structures and inhospitable working conditions threaten to extinguish this flame, driving talented nurses from the fold.

But there is a glimmer of hope – a rallying cry for economic justice and equitable opportunities reverberates through the halls of healthcare. Nurses and organisations are uniting, demanding fair compensation, career advancement and safe staffing ratios. Their voices, amplified by collaboration, demand a seat at the table where policies are forged and standards are set.

Education emerges as a powerful weapon in this battle for recognition. By disseminating knowledge about the vital contributions of nurses, society’s eyes are opened to the profound impact of these healthcare heroes. From health education to community outreach, nurses champion holistic well-being, bridging the chasm between illness and wellness.

But they cannot do it alone. Communities must rise in solidarity, demanding the infrastructure, resources and standards necessary to support quality care. Only through collective action can the foundation of healthcare be fortified, ensuring that no nurse toils in vain.

Nursing is an esteemed vocation that blends artistry with science, and beckons forth a legion of trailblazers. From the bedside to the boardroom, nurses chart a course of innovation and compassion. The horizon of possibilities stretches endlessly before them, offering avenues for specialisation, leadership and research.

In a world perpetually in flux, one truth remains immutable: the demand for nursing will only escalate. As populations burgeon and age, the need for skilled caregivers will soar, heralding a new generation of nurses to carry the torch of healing forward.

For those with ambition coursing through their veins, nursing offers a canvas upon which to paint their aspirations – be it delivering care to the afflicted or shaping healthcare policy on a global stage. In the realm of nursing, the only limits are those we impose upon ourselves.

- Author Professors Shirley Mooa and Annatjie van der Wath of the Department of Nursing Science at the University of Pretoria

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