Nurses Rise to the Pandemic Challenge

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“International Nurses Day”

By Dr Shama Lohumi

As we celebrate International Nurses Day on May 12, it is important to have a look at the pandemic-marred Year 2020, which put the skills, patience and endurance of healthcare professionals to a severe test. Incidentally, it was declared as the “year of the nurses and midwife” to mark the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It turned out to be an exceptional year during which nurses were in the forefront of the war against the pandemic and as per available data 2710 nurses lost their lives to Covid-19 up to January 31 in 59 countries. The pandemic once again brought to fore the pivotal role of nurses in the delivery of healthcare.  The global COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the infirmities in the healthcare systems across the world. Nurses bore the brunt of the pressure on the system in trying working environments created unrestrained spread of the dreaded infection, which has already claimed close to 6 lakh lives.

The healthcare system virtually collapsed in many countries as institutions grappled with shortage of PPE kits, medical masks, medicines and healthcare professionals, especially nurses. The global nursing workforce is estimated at 27.8 million and there was already a shortfall facing 5.9 million nurses before coronavirus 19 pandemic. According to International Council of Nurses after the pandemic an estimated 13 million nurses may be required to meet the global shortage.

The nurses proved their mettle and displayed the highest degree of professional commitment during the pandemic, which disrupted healthcare systems. It has thrown up a new challenge for the nurses that calls for fresh initiatives and innovative approaches to improve quality of healthcare delivery. Effective policy interventions will be required to cope with such situations in future more effectively.

 In the emerging scenario the theme given by International Council of Nurses (ICN) for International Nurses Day 2021   “Nurses: A Voice to Lead” with a sub-theme “A Vision for Future Healthcare” assumes added significance. The  experience, both good and bad, gained during  the pandemic has only added to the body of knowledge and it will go a long way in developing new  nursing strategies, redefining the role of nurses and in shaping the  future of healthcare.

Thus, we must see the current adverse circumstances created by pandemic in the healthcare settings also as an opportunity to make the system more vibrant and responsive to the needs of the people. Nurses are at the core of healthcare delivery and they must take the lead in evolving new policies and strategies to meet the new challenges. The impact of Covid-19 must leave the system stronger and competent to deal with such situations in future.

Long-term strategy will have to be put in place as pandemic may not be over soon, despite all the thrust on vaccination. The emergence of new and more deadly variants of virus are emerging at an alarming pace putting a question mark over the efficacy of controlling infection through vaccination.

The world is reeling under the more lethal second Covid-19 wave and experts are already warning of a third wave. Nurses have to remain prepared to cope with any such an eventuality and serve the suffering humanity with greater compassion.

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