Nurses on the frontlines in battle against Covid 19


They are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics by providing high quality and respectful treatment and care. As health-care workers continue to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, International Nurses Day has taken on a new significance this year.

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12 to highlight the importance of nurses and thank them for their work. Beginning from the latter part of 2019, over the past several months, nurses and other medical professionals have put their lives on the line to fight COVID-19.

With “Nursing the World to Health” being the theme this year, the World Health Organization (WHO), ICN, and Nursing Now requested people set aside a moment to reflect and honour the memory of nurses and health workers who have tragically died during the global pandemic on May 11, the eve of International Nurses Day. This year also marks the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Therefore, the whole world was planning to celebrate this bicentenary on a grand scale.

However, though celebrations have come to a standstill Head Nurse of the National Hospital Pushpa Ramyani De Soysa notes that the legacy of the trailblazing nurse has never been so pertinent.

“She was a pioneer for sanitation, hygiene and had a monumental impact on infection control today,” De Soysa said.

She says that fighting epidemics and pandemics is part and parcel of the profession. Historically, as well as today, nurses have been at the forefront of fighting deadly diseases and providing high quality and respectful treatment and care.

“The 1918 Spanish flu resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide. Thousands of injured soldiers were tended to by nurses in the multi-sided Syrian Civil War. In Sri Lanka, nurses worked around the clock caring for those who had been affected by the three decade terrorism era. The Covid-19 pandemic too is another stark reminder of the vital role nurses play. Therefore, they are well prepared to take on challenges of this nature,” De Soysa expressed.

Nurses are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital.

“The importance of Nightingale’s nursing values – maintaining good hygiene, regularly washing hands, and carrying out evidence-based practices – have been echoed over recent months. She developed these crucial habits during the Crimean War (1853-56), when, along with a small troupe of nurses, she tended soldiers’ wounds and worked to improve hospital conditions. In 1854, she brought 38 volunteer nurses to care for soldiers during the Crimean War. She managed to reduce the death rate from 42 percent to two percent,” she pointed out adding that this year the day is particularly special because of the extraordinary work all those who have followed in her footsteps are doing in the fight against coronavirus.

Occupational safety and health of nurses and all health workers is important because only then they would be able to safely provide care and reduce infections in health care settings.

WHO urges countries to give nurses the financial support and other resources required to help respond to and control COVID-19 and future outbreaks.

Living up to the expectations of their founder, nurses and other medical professionals, across the world and especially in Sri Lanka, have put their lives on the line to fight COVID-19. Working day and night amid the growing numbers of sick patients, these health heroes have set aside their duties towards their families and loved ones to save lives. Exhausted by the tiring shifts and with bruised faces due to wearing protective gears for lengthy periods, they bring hope and consonance to many fearful beings who have found that they have tested positive for the infectious disease.

As a tribute to their heroic efforts WHO encouraged people to shine a light either by lightning a candle or by using your mobile phone to recognize the role of nurses in the coronavirus fight. They urged the public to share a photo or shirt video on one of their social media tiles, along with the hashtag, #RememberHealthHeroes. The symbolic gesture will also be a nod to the lamp Nightingale was known to carry.

De Soysa said nurses really appreciate being acknowledged by their communities during this time.

“It is so nice to see the support, the signs that are posted on people’s homes and outside workplaces and posted on social media. It is motivating to know that people are thinking about and supporting us,” she said.

Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, yet there is an urgent shortage of nurses worldwide with 5.9 million more nurses still needed, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Though most of the developed countries offer high educational qualifications like diplomas for nurses, De Soysa notes that the highest qualification they have for nurses in Sri Lanka at the moment is a diploma.

“We have made requests to offer higher studies for nurses. Hopefully, that will work out soon,” she concluded.

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