Under the theme ‘Closing the Gap: Increasing access and equity’, International Nurses Day will be celebrated around the world on Thursday (May 12), a day which marks the birth anniversary of the legendary Nurse Personality, Florence Nightingale.
Born on May 12 1820, Nightingale was a celebrated English nurse who was devoted to the nursing profession. Reports suggest that she was instrumental in changing the face of nursing from a mostly untrained profession to a highly skilled and well-respected medical profession with very important responsibilities.
It was at the tender age of 17 that Nightingale believed that she was called into service by God “to do something toward lifting the load of suffering from the helpless and miserable.”
At first her parents refused to allow her to become a nurse because, at that time, it was not thought to be a suitable profession for a well educated woman. But Nightingale did not give up. Eventually in 1851 her father gave his permission and she went to Germany to train as a nurse. By 1853 she was running a hospital in London.
The following year Nightingale was asked to go to Turkey to manage the nursing of British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War (1854 – 56). She travelled to Scutari (the location where the wounded and ill soldiers of the Crimean War were taken) to help the wounded soldiers. And there she found the hospital conditions to be in a very poor state.
Many of the wounded were unwashed and were sleeping in overcrowded, dirty rooms without blankets or decent food. In these conditions diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery spread quickly. As a result, the death rate amongst wounded soldiers was very high. Most soldiers died from infections and disease.
Only one in six died from their war wounds; the other five in six died from infections and disease.
Nightingale and her nurses changed these conditions. They set up a kitchen, fed the wounded from their own supplies, dug latrines for sanitation, and asked for help from the wives of the wounded. They were then able to properly care for the ill and wounded and the death rate among the soldiers dropped.
Nightingale was very dedicated to her job. She would often visit the soldiers at night when everyone was asleep just to make sure they were alright. She was then referred to as “The Lady of the Lamp” because she hardly took time off to sleep and thus became a true hero to the soldiers and everyone back home in England.
And it was in honour of this dedicated nurse that the Florence Nightingale Pledge was composed in 1893 by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America. Nurses even today are obligated to recite the pledge as part of their induction into the public health system.
The Florence Nightingale Pledge
I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavour to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.
In observance of the International Nurses’ Day the International Council of Nurses usually produces and distributes International Nurses Day Kits which contains educational and public information materials for use by nurses everywhere.
Although Thursday is designated the commemorative day, an entire week of activities, commencing today with a church service, has been streamlined by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
The week of activities will entail mini exhibitions, visits to various health facilities an award ceremony to honour outstanding nurses and even a day of sports.
As part of the week of activities the GPHC will also be hosting a Nurses Education Week Programme which will be facilitated by the Guyana Burn and Health Care Charitable Foundation of Canada, one of the GPHC’s most active and generous partners in the delivery of quality health care.
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