12 May 2022 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Charl Devenish
Dr Jeanette Sabaeng
Dr Jeanette Sebaeng is the Head of the University of the Free State (UFS) School of Nursing and believe International Nurses Day provides an opportunity for society to show recognition for nurses, often with tokens of appreciation.

International Nurses Day (celebrated around the world on 12 May each year) provides an opportunity for society to show recognition for nurses, often with tokens of appreciation. Many health-care institutions, professional bodies, and provincial health departments take the opportunity to engage with their front-line staff to acknowledge their contribution to the institution. This day provides all nurses with a platform to reflect on what is fundamentally important in nursing practice and the nursing profession.

Why is celebrating this day important? 

Have you ever imagined a world without nurses, asks Dr Jeanette Sebaeng, Head of the University of the Free State (UFS) School of Nursing, and  Dr Lizemari Hugo-Van Dyk, Lecturer in the School of Nursing. International Nurses Day is an event established by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in 1974, and is the day set aside to create an opportunity for all nurses from different disciplines and parts of the world to unite, celebrate, and reflect on their profession. The celebration of this day is led by the ICN each year, commemorating the birth of Florence Nightingale who pioneered modern nursing.

What is significant about this day?

According to the colleagues – by celebrating nurses, we honour and pay tribute to their endless contribution to the health care of society at large. The theme announced by the ICN for 2022 is, Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect the rights to secure global health. Nurses are the backbone of the health-care system, and there is therefore a need to increase investment in the nursing profession to strengthen patient care. There are close to 28 million nurses globally, accounting for nearly 60% of the health-care workforce that delivers about 90% of primary health care. 

It is evident from the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world that there is an underinvestment in health care and nursing around the world. It is for this reason that there is a call this year for all nurses to advocate with one voice on the day for much-needed investment in health care to attain the universal health goals. This is also emphasised by the ICN President, Dr Pamela Cipriano, who stated: “If governments continue to put off investing in the health workforce, it will be to the detriment of health systems everywhere. There is no health without a health workforce.”

How the nursing profession changed over the years 

Drs Sebaeng and Hugo-Van Dyk say nursing has undergone significant changes over the centuries, from working on the fringes of health care, cleaning and sweeping while providing primary patient care such as feeding, to gradually evolving into the profession it is today thanks to pioneers such as Florence Nightingale, Henrietta Stockdale, and Cecilia Makiwane.

Today, the landscape of the nursing profession requires nurses to evolve further due to the ever-changing health-care system with its altering disease profiles, complex co-morbidities, and new technologies, to mention but a few. This has led to nurses gaining a significant amount of responsibility. 

“The era of nurses who are merely responsible for basic patient-care activities, taking vital signs, and carrying out doctor's orders, has ended. Currently, nurses are tasked with sharing their knowledge and skills through shared leadership by demonstrating specialised autonomous healthcare-related practices to patients under their care. Consequently, nurses are considered a vital part of the health-care team, but often do not receive credit or recognition,” say Drs Sebaeng and Hugo-Van Dyk.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in overwhelmed and burnt-out nurses due to the high workload and continuous staff shortages. It is stated that for every ten patients that a nurse encounters, two have a positive attitude. There can be many reasons for this, but look at your own families, neighbourhood, and the entire community: children are birthed, and nurses further provide continuous services in the health-care centres, clinics, and hospitals, often without receiving a simple ‘THANK YOU’.

Encourage young people to become nurses

Nursing is a noble and sacred profession, and she would encourage young people to join the nursing profession, says Dr Sebaeng. However, she warns, emphasis should be placed on considering nursing only if you are compassionate, have a sense of advocacy, and the ability to anticipate issues.  “As a nurse, you witness the events that unveils during the beginning of life, i.e., helping the pregnant woman give birth, nursing individuals across their lifespan, and witnessing the last offices (end of life), which are very complex and emotionally touching situations. Otherwise, nursing is for anyone interested in an exciting, fast-paced profession, where you have the opportunity to contribute positively to patients and communities while experiencing the benefits of a holistic approach to medicine.”

UFS School of Nursing develops competent nursing graduates 

The School of Nursing at the University of the Free State is committed to developing competent nursing graduates who are able to address the healthcare needs of the communities they serve. The school remains at the forefront of nursing education through innovative simulation and innovative learning and teaching strategies, while caring for its students. “Most importantly, the School of Nursing believes in our clientele, students’ reflections on their experiences that keep us on our toes, and which give us an opportunity to up our game.  We also receive positive feedback from stakeholders as well as employers regarding the attributes and the throughput of our students, which also keeps us in check.”

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