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2020 is UN WHO International Year of the Nurse and Midwife

By Cian Molloy - 05 January, 2020

This year, 2020, has been designated World Health Organisation (WHO) International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, a move welcomed by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and by Irish nursing religious orders.

The year aims to unite the nations of the world in celebration of the benefits that nursing and midwifery bring to the health of the global population.

Florence Nightingale in 1860.

This year was chosen for the celebration because it coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, one of the founders of modern nursing (arguably, Mary Seacole, a Catholic contemporary of Florence Nightingale in the Crimea did more to save the lives of the sick and injured, but it can be argued that Seacole has been overlooked due to her race).

The WHO is calling for 2020 to be used to celebrate “the vital role and contributions of nurses and midwives in achieving universal health coverage”. Later this year, the WHO will publish its first State of the Worlds Nursing Report.

The INMO, which celebrated its centenary last year, says the year will also mark the nurses and midwives’ increasing lead in bringing healthcare to entire populations, particularly those most marginalised and in need, along with the designing and delivery of solutions to meet the challenges of changing and ageing populations.

INMO President and Sligo-based nurse, Martina Harkin-Kelly, said: “Our professions have touched the minds, hearts and health of the nation, have changed lives, and have comforted so many. This is a year which celebrates that vital contribution and which recognises that without nursing and midwifery at the heart of health services the needs of the population will not be met.

“This is our year. It’s a chance to not only reflect on how far our professions have come, but to push for them to develop. More staff to allow specialisations, more nurse and midwife-led services, and putting our professions firmly at the heart of healthcare are key tasks for the year ahead. That takes government recognition – ensuring we have a truly universal healthcare system.

“Nurses and midwives are already leaders in their workplaces and communities. We are fierce advocates for those in our care. This year is all about recognising that and building on it.”

European Federation of Nurses Associations President, Elizabeth Adams, said: “Nursing and Midwifery embodies the best of human endeavours, positively contributing to the health and well-being of so many lives. Without question, the practice of nursing and midwifery adds substantial value by enhancing the socio-economic welfare of the wider global population.”

Several Catholic religious orders are deeply involved in nursing, including: the Sisters of Charity, the Bon Secours Sisters and the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM).

Sr Carol Breslin of the MMMs pointed out that in many countries in the world, nurses and midwives account for more than half of those working in healthcare. She noted that in addition to being qualified as nurses and midwives, the order has also, for many years, been involved in the training of lay nurses and midwives.

She said: “In addition to providing essential health workers, this training advanced the education and standing of women, enabling them to contribute to the development of their families and communities. We salute them all and thank them for their great dedication and compassion, which has brought healing to countless millions around the world.”

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