International Nurses Day recognises and highlights the important mahi of nurses. It’s celebrated yearly on 12 May in commemoration of pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale.
In Aotearoa, and globally, nurses play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of older people. They are often the direct point of contact with patients and whānau and provide essential care and support on a daily basis for those who need it.
The critical role of nurses in the healthcare system was obvious during the pandemic. Throughout lockdowns and waves of COVID-19, nurses readily and regularly adjusted the way they worked in order to continue delivering care to the people of Aotearoa. The PPE they donned on shifts was just one example. Across the motu every day, the care nurses provided made a critical difference in our communities.
This year’s International Nurses Day theme is Our Nurses. Our Future. The theme – an initiative of the International Council of Nurses – asks decision makers to look to the future and invest in nurses globally. Supporting the nursing profession safeguards the future health for all, and will help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (which include universal health coverage).
For Aotearoa’s older people, nurses provide care in a variety of settings – hospitals, clinics, in the community and in aged residential care. By current estimates we are at least 1200 registered nurses short in our aged care sector. Yet the population of older people is growing and will comprise around 20% of the population in the next ten years. Additionally, older people are big users of the health system.
To ensure the sustainability of the nursing workforce for older people, we need a comprehensive long-term strategy. The health and wellbeing of Aotearoa’s older people requires a nursing workforce that is well-qualified and can meet the evolving needs of older people so that they are able to receive care whenever and wherever they need it. This includes providing culturally appropriate and equitable care that speaks to the diversity of older people.
To achieve this workforce we need to grow our own nurses, as well as enable overseas nurses to work here. We also need to ensure that aged care nursing is viewed as a respected and valued profession which forms a critical part of our health system.
Growing the nursing workforce for older people will make a real difference to the quality and safety of care older people receive and lead to better outcomes for whānau and communities across Aotearoa.
International Nurses Day is an important opportunity to recognise the contribution nurses make and consider how to support the profession now and in the future. Join me in celebrating the mahi of our nurses.
12 May 2023