What Is International Nurses Day?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Nurses: they work tirelessly, bringing to the bedside and office comfort, care and knowledge. It is easy to see why they deserve a day of honor to celebrate their sacrifices and dedication. But how did International Nurses Day, held May 12, begin?

Florence Nightingale, lauded as the originator of modern nursing was born May 12, 1820. Before her time, nursing was not a career per se. Nurses were not trained professionals. They were usually women drawn from religious orders who were willing to do the menial tasks of personal care for those who were bedridden by illness or injury.

Nightingale helped change that. In 1860, she developed a nurse training program. Her efforts helped bring medical care into nursing service. Instead of being little more than a personal care aid, the nurse became part of the medical team with knowledge to help improve the patient’s condition.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nurses comprise 59% of healthcare workers. Nurses’ importance should not be overlooked, as the WHO estimates that patients in intensive care spend 86% to 88% of their time with a nurse. From before birth to death, most people will experience a nurse’s care. Nurses may work in academia, bedside, chairside in schools, and numerous other locations. Their specialties cover every medical niche.

The demand on nurses can include variable hours, long shifts, a range of emotions and much physical exertion. Considering the especially onerous conditions that nurses have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic, nurses deserve exceptional praise for their service this year. From Nightingale’s day to present times, nurses have led the medical community in extending comfort, care and compassion to patients. The theme of this year’s International Nurses Day is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead.”