2010: The Year of Nurse

Tomorrow when we ring in the New Year we’ll also be ringing in the International Year of the Nurse. No kidding. The designation honors the centennial of the death of Florence Nightingale (she died on August 13, 1910). It launches at noon everywhere on January 1 with the Million Nurse Global Caring Field Project, a “global meditation” led by noted nursing theorist Jean Watson, and events will continue throughout the year.

Most of you were probably aware that the United Nations had developed eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) that nations should achieve to end poverty and improve the health, education, and quality of life of their peoples. Three of the eight goals are specifically focused on health, but the others all have an impact on health one way or another.

The target date for achieving the goals is 2015, but as countries have implemented programs to achieve these goals they’ve become acutely aware that, without nurses in sufficient supply, they will fall short. For example, how do you reduce the maternal death rate during childbirth if there are few skilled health professionals to provide prenatal care or assist at births? How do you treat TB and HIV when there are no health workers to dispense and monitor drug therapy?

The Florence Nightingale Museum, the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, and Sigma Theta Tau International are collaborating on the initiative and seek “to recognize the contributions of nurses globally and to engage nurses in the promotion of world health, including the UN MDGs.” This coincides with the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) Office of Nursing and Midwifery over the past few years to increase the visibility and importance of nurses’ roles, both within the WHO and in its member countries. (Here’s my report from the May 2008 WHO meeting.) At the 2010 General Assembly in May, when member nations gather in Geneva, they will consider a resolution reaffirming the crucial role of nurses and midwives in advancing health.

One event to mark the year is a special commemorative service on April 25 at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. (Details will be forthcoming at this Web site.) Why not plan a road trip with colleagues—attend the service, reflect on the importance of what we do as nurses, and then celebrate with your friends and colleagues.

Nurses work hard every day. When was the last time you took time to think about what you do and the difference it makes to those who are at the receiving end of your knowledge and skill? If you can’t make it to DC, what are you going to do to honor what you and your colleagues do every day?