International Nurses’ Day

May 12, 2023

International Nurses’ Day

As a former nurse, I am especially pleased to celebrate International Nurses’ Day. I think of all the exceptional women and men I was privileged to work with, and the wider community of people who have dedicated some part of their lives to the care of others.

May 12th is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who influenced not only the management of wounded and ill soldiers in the Crimea, but also the development of the nursing profession.

Despite the image of the ‘Lady with the Lamp’, Miss Nightingale was also a formidable analyst of data. She developed the polar area diagram to illustrate the avoidable loss of life among soldiers in the Crimea from preventable or treatable disease. She was the first woman member of the Royal Statistical Society.

Thanks to Miss Nightingale’s efforts, the image of the nursing profession has changed from Sairey Gamp, the gin-swigging, brolly-wielding nurse of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, to the highly-educated graduates of today. This change was facilitated by Miss Nightingale’s attention to detail. Indeed, it seems that nothing escaped her notice:

“A nurse who rustles is the horror of a patient, though perhaps he does not know why. The fidget of silk and of crinoline, the rattling of keys, the creaking of stays and of shoes, will do a patient more harm than all the medicines in the world will do him good.”   

Florence Nightingale: Notes on Nursing: what it is and what it is not.

Today’s nurses are better equipped, not only in terms of their attire, but also in the education that enables them to meet the technical challenges of contemporary medical and nursing care.

Marie Harrison RGN