Nurses: A Force For Change: Improving Health Systems’ Resilience


International Nurses Day 2016

International Nurses Day

On May 12, 1820, Florence Nightingale was born. Widely regarded as the founder of modern nursing, ‘the Lady with the Lamp’ was behind momentous nursing reforms in her native Britain, ones that caused the rest of the world to sit up and take notice.

Florence Nightingale’s birthday was chosen as the date to hold International Nurses Day each year – a celebration of the contribution that today’s nurses make to their local community, their patients, and wider society as a whole.

Florence Nightingale’s birthday was chosen as the date to hold International Nurses Day each year.
The theme for the 2016 edition of International Nurses Day is ‘A Force For Change: Improving Health Systems’ Resilience.’ To mark the occasion, we at Ochre Health sat down in a round table discussion with three nurses plying their trade across Australia.

A round table International Nurses Day discussion
We asked Jan McKelvey, National Quality Nurse Manager for Ochre Health, Anne Redmayne of the Australian Capital Territory, and Nicole Carlyon of Boggabri Medical Centre, New South Wales, about a range of topics regarding International Nurses Day. Here is what they had to say.

As we mentioned, the theme for this year’s International Nurses Day is ‘A Force For Change: Improving Health Systems’ Resilience.’ What does this topic mean for nursing, with regards to traditional methods and modern techniques on the whole?

“I think that, when related to primary healthcare (which is what we do), this aspect of nursing is a continuing, ongoing area. In primary healthcare, there are changes that happen so regularly, and nurses need to be on top of it all – whether it’s something small within the practice or the wider community,” said Jan.

“All of these improvements impact on our day-to-day work, and we’re at the forefront of receiving each of those changes and delivering them to our patients,” added Anne.

A lasting influence
Fittingly, International Nurses Day is held on Florence Nightingale’s birthday each year. She died at the age of 90 over 100 years ago, but the changes she brought about to nursing during her lifetime are still implemented today. Of course, as technology and nursing methods improved over the years, the changes since her time are near-immeasurable. How does International Nurses Day honour her contribution?

“We have developed so much of what she started, but her basic principles are still valid today. Yes, things have evolved and technology has improved things – medications, dressings – but even though times have moved on, we still come back to those core principles of nursing – the basis of everything is our patients,” said Nicole.

City slickers and country folk
It’s a pretty fair assumption that nursing in a city setting as opposed to a rural area is markedly different. So how do these three nurses see their work, and their overall impact on these communities, play out as a whole?

“For a long time, I worked in a very small, four-doctor practice, where I knew the area and the locals very well. For example, I’d immunise children, then end up immunising their children 20 or so years later. Now I’m in a massive practice where there are up to 15 or 16 doctors, but I still believe that we can deliver the same quality care in the larger practices as we did in the smaller practices. Nurses in Australia have the same knowledge and skills, no matter where they are based, and we can still provide the personal, individual care,” Anne noted.

“I’ve worked in both,” says Nicole. “I worked in Perth for 10 years, and a rural practice with just 1,000 people on the books. Being in a city, people very much come and go, and urban areas can be very transitional places. Multiculturalism is a lot bigger in the city, and people keep to themselves. In the country, those 1,000 people all know each other – for example, Mr Jones might come into the practice for a check-up, but he actually starts talking about Mrs Smith as well, as he’s concerned about her. It can be hard to maintain good confidentiality in the bush!”

Surely, though, medical practices out in the sticks work in the same way as they do in heaving, packed cities?

“From a purely medical standpoint, of course you deliver the exact same care that you do in either the city or the bush. The clientele, though, is completely different – people living in rural areas tend to be more resilient, and will only show up under serious circumstances. City folk are more inclined to make appointments a little more liberally,” states Nicole.

A work in progress
It goes without saying that modern nursing hugely benefits the health industry in all manner of different ways. As nurses are such an integral part of the health system as a whole, how do Anne, Jan and Nicole feel that things have progressed?

“Because nurses now have a broader base of knowledge, we are no longer simply seen as someone there to clean up after the doctor. We have the ability to be professionally functional within the tough environment in which we work,” says Jan.

“We are also pretty specialised, so we have a lot of things to look after that are ongoing – wound management, immunisation, asthma and diabetes care. Nurses are highly skilled in such things, and often lead the way in primary care. We now stand and work alongside doctors, rather than underneath them, and are now recognised by society as valuable, professional healthcare workers,” mentions Anne.
Nurses perform a hugely important job on a daily basis, around the world.

The future of modern nursing
As the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale would be amazed at the progress that has been made in medical fields across the board in the century or so since her death. With that in mind, how do our trio of nurses see the future progressing, and what kinds of innovations will be put into place?

“Preventative health is a big thing – there’s a lot of focus on that right now. Chronic disease management and other measures are being pushed a little bit more, which will be beneficial for everyone, ” says Nicole.

“I’m hoping to see more pure nurse leadership,” says Anne. “I’d like to see nurses gain more control, whether that means extra responsibility in chronic disease control as Nicole says, or something similar, that would be an exciting way forward.”

Of course, as medicine and the health industry continues to evolve, we’re sure that such attitudes will change and that nurses will continue to be seen in an esteemed light the world over. Their work is of paramount importance, and at Ochre Health, we encourage nurses everywhere to celebrate their profession on May 12, but not just for that day only – modern nursing is a calling that deserves respect, year round.

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