This year is the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightengale’s birth. In honour of the famous nurse, who served in the Crimean War, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
The theme for 2020 is Nurses: A Voice to Lead — Nursing the World to Health. The theme was developed to showcase how nurses are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges. The International Council of Nurses says the theme will help raise the profession’s profile and attract a new generation into the nursing family.
Today, the term “nurse” no longer refers to just Registered Nurses (RN’s). There are many different types of nurses, such as:
- Registered Nurses (RN’s)
- Registered Psychiatric Nurses
- Registered Practical Nurse/Licenced Practical Nurse (RPN/LPN)
- Nurse Practitioners (NP)
- Health Care Aids (HCA) which include the many different titles of Health Care Aid (HCA), Nursing Assistant (NA), Personal Support Worker (PSW), and Personal Care Attendant (PCA)
Canadian nursing dates back to 1639 in Quebec with the Augustine nuns. These nuns dedicated themselves to opening up a Mission that cared for the spiritual and physical needs of patients. This Mission later went on to create the first nursing apprenticeship training in North America.
At the end of the nineteenth century, hospital care and medical services improved and expanded due to Florence Nightingale training women in English Canada.
In 1874 the first formal nursing training program was started at the General and Marine Hospital in St. Catharines in Ontario. Many programs subsequently popped up in hospitals across Canada after this. Graduates and teachers from these programs began to fight for licensing legislation, and for professional organizations for nurses.
Nightingale is best known around the world as the “lady with the lamp” who nursed British soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-1856). She is also credited and turned nursing into a profession. Nightingale died on August 13, 1910, at the age of 90.
Nightingale’s lasting contribution has been her role in founding the what we consider to be the nursing profession. She set an example of compassion, commitment to patient care and diligent and thoughtful hospital administration. The first official nurses’ training programme, her Nightingale School for Nurses, opened in 1860 and is now called the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London.
In 1912, the International Committee of the Red Cross instituted the Florence Nightingale Medal. This honour is awarded every two years to nurses or nursing aides for outstanding service. It is the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve. It is awarded to nurses or nursing aides for “exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster” or “exemplary services or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education”.
Since 1965, International Nurses Day has been celebrated on Nightengale’s birthday, May 12th. The President of India honours nursing professionals with the “National Florence Nightingale Award” every year on International Nurses Day. The award, established in 1973, is given in recognition of exemplary services of nursing professionals characterized by devotion, sincerity, dedication, and compassion.
In 1985, the Canadian minister of health proclaimed the second week of May as National Nurses Week. In 1993, the name was changed to National Nursing Week to emphasize the profession’s accomplishments as a discipline.
Join us this week in celebrating the contributions of nurses, health care aids, medical office assistants, and others to the healthcare profession, here in Canada and around the world!