Health & Wellness Blog

12/05/2023

Nursing in Aotearoa and Nightingale's Legacy

Ben Cooper

Florence Nightingale.

First of all, what a name.

Secondly, what a person!

Today is International Nurses Day (IND), which is commemorated on the birthday of Florence Nightingale (12th May). To celebrate this important day, we want to share a slice of the incredible work that nurses do.

So who is Florence Nightingale?

You’ll likely know her as the founder of modern nursing and most know her for her work in developing modern healthcare systems and processes that lead to greater outcomes in the healthcare provided to people. Nightingale pushed for Nursing to be a recognised profession with dedicated nursing schools, where nurses would be trained on many health practices, including the sanitation practices that Nightingale herself pioneered.

The statisticians among us would also recognise her pioneering work in the data presentation field. Florence collected and analysed data on disease patterns and outcomes, which lead to new strategies for preventing and treating illnesses, pushing new evidence-based healthcare practices.

You may also know Florence Nightingale as a vocal communicator of health inequities. Nightingale frequently wrote about the social and economic factors that contribute to lower access to healthcare. In a time when women and minorities were consistently mistreated across the British Empire, Florence Nightingale pushed for political and social reform across the world.

She proposed that improving access to affordable housing, nutritious food and education would lead to lasting positive effects on everyone. It seems obvious now, but not many others were pushing for such reform at the time.

So, what about Nurses in Aotearoa?

Around Aotearoa, Nurses work day and night to improve healthcare outcomes for patients, including efforts to address healthcare inequity.

We’re not perfect and we can’t claim that we’ve solved inequity, but there are many members of our healthcare system who have been advocating for structural changes for a long time, and oftentimes Nurses are both the communicators and the enactors of this reform.

We see Nurses around our country pushing for patient-centred care.

They advocate for Māori health and attempt to address the disparities in healthcare, including greater involvement of Māori in decision-making.

Nurses promote diversity, encouraging more communities to join the healthcare workforce.

Nursing in Aotearoa involves a lot of health literacy and communicating information around preventative treatment and care to communities that have limited access.

They push for stronger policies in our country that result in better healthcare outcomes. This involves better funding and pay for healthcare workers, addressing the social determinants of health (such as income, education and housing), increasing staffing levels and improving access to mental health services.

Nurses do all of this as part of, or on top of, their hectic schedules and difficult work. It makes me wonder what kind of world Florence Nightingale hoped her progress would lead to, as Nurses around the country keep pushing to not just improve healthcare but to also improve the communities they provide healthcare to. I believe continuous improvement is something she would certainly be proud of.

 

Let’s use today as a reminder to celebrate the nurses of Aotearoa every day of the year.

Ka whakamahia tenei ra hei whakamaumaharatanga ki nga neehi o Aotearoa, hei whakanui i a ratou ia ra o te tau.

 

I’ll leave you now with one of the modernised versions of the Nightingale pledge:

Before those assembled here, I solemnly pledge;

To adhere to the code of ethics of the nursing profession;

To co-operate faithfully with the other members of the nursing team and to carry out faithfully and to the best of my ability the instructions of the physician or the nurse who may be assigned to supervise my work;

I will not do anything evil or malicious and I will not knowingly give any harmful drug or assist in malpractice.

I will not reveal any confidential information that may come to my knowledge in the course of my work.

And I pledge myself to do all in my power to raise the standards and prestige of practical nursing;

May my life be devoted to service and to the high ideals of the nursing profession.

 

To the nurses of the world: Thank you.

 

Sincerely, 

Ben the Quasi-Wellness Writer

 

To find out more and to help fix the nursing shortage crisis, please visit: https://www.nzno.org.nz/

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