What is International Nurses Day?

Published on 12 May 2021 Read 25 min

Each year, on the 12th of May, the world pays tribute to nurses by celebrating the International Nurses Day. After more than a year of a global Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of these caregivers is more evident than ever. Alcimed takes a look at this special day which gives rise to different events and ceremonies around the globe.

The International Nurses Day: a day inspired by Florence Nightingale

On the 12th of May 1965, the International Council of Nurses, an NGO that represents more than 130 nursing associations, celebrated the work and commitment of nurses throughout the world for the first time.

The 12th of May is the birth date of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), a British nurse considered as a pioneer in terms of nursing techniques. In 1854, she volunteered to help the British troops in the surroundings of Istanbul during the Crimean War. By introducing strict hygiene rules, such as hand washing, improved ventilation and frequent cleaning of common rooms, Florence Nightingale managed to drastically reduce the mortality rate of wounded soldiers, who were dying more from infections due to poor sanitary conditions than from war wounds before the nurse’s arrival.

Florence Nightingale is also known for her extensive use of statistics and graphic representations to highlight and explain the death rates due to poor sanitation practices.

May 12 was officially named International Nurses Day in 1974.

A celebration of nursing professionals

In addition to recognizing the work of nurses and their commitment to ensuring healthy societies around the world, the objectives of the International Nurses Day are:

  • To highlight the numerous professional problems of these caregivers: difficult working conditions, lack of equipment in many countries, …
  • To raise awareness about the importance of this profession and to encourage young people to take interest in it. Thus, the United Nations and the WHO use this day to communicate on the importance of recruiting nurses. It is estimated that 18 additional millions of nurses would be needed to meet the world’s healthcare needs by 2030 compared to nowadays.

>> Read more: Specialized nurses, the new players of importance for pharmaceutical companies

The Nurses Day: an international event

The International Nurses Day is celebrated through multiple events in different countries.

Every year, the International Council of Nurses creates and distributes “Nursing Kits” worldwide that can be used as educational and informational material and that nurses can use in any country.

  • In Australia, in each region, official ceremonies are held throughout the week around May 12.
  • In Ireland, since 2012, campaigns are launched on the internet to collect testimonials and positive opinions from people on social networks. These testimonials are then distributed in medical centers all over Ireland.
  • In the United Kingdom, a service is organized each year at the Westminster Abbey to pay tribute to the transmission of knowledge between nurses.
  • Finally, in the United States and Canada, the celebration of nurses takes place every year for one whole week, between May 6 and 12.

In many countries, such as France, International Nurses Day is not publicly promoted.

International Nurses Day 2021: Nursing: A Voice for Leadership – A Vision for Tomorrow’s Care

2020, that was marked by the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, was designated by the WHO as the year of midwives and nurses. The theme of the International Nurses Day 2021 is also part of this context of pandemic. The theme “Nursing: A Voice for Leadership – A Vision for Tomorrow’s Care” will be on the agenda for May 12, 2021. The goal will be to show what nursing will look like in a near future.

On the International Nurses Day website, a photo competition, a collection of nurses’ testimonies in the context of Covid-19 and a case study competition on any nursing topic have been organized. The results and testimonials will be published on May 12.

In conclusion, awareness on the importance of the nurses profession and the development of its attractiveness are crucial, especially to ensure a sufficient number of nurses in the years to come. The development of the International Nurses Day through conferences and activities in France could, among other things, help spread these messages to the general public.

Alcimed salutes and supports all the nurses of the world, who work with courage and determination to care for everyone, especially in this period of pandemic.

About the author,
Amélie, Consultant in Alcimed’s Healthcare team in France

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