The week long celebration started on Monday. I haven’t been to the hospital the entire week, so I’m not entirely sure what is going on there nor have I been able to have a heart to heart talk with my nursing friends and colleagues.
I noticed, when I was in India, that they celebrate theirs on the 20th of May which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Although we grew up with the image of her as a self-sacrificial figure in the care of fallen soldiers, she was much more than that.
As an educated, empowered woman, she is, to an extent a feminist symbol for rejecting the suffocating expectations placed on an upper-class woman to be a baby-making machine. Instead, she decided to be a nurse, against the wishes of her her family. She was also known to travel widely and work with politicians, write extensively and do big-picture planning.
It is also easy to forget her role as a pioneer of the hospital as a well organised system. Her experience in the Crimean War showed that many soldiers were dying from diseases apart from the battle injuries. She seems, from my reading of her Wikipedia entry, to be an early adopter of some sort of Evidence Based Medicine. Which, to put simply, is the use of scientific methods to understand if your treatment is working and to tease out the risks of it. Her background in statistics probably helped and she actually compiled data on her patients as opposed to basing her ideas on “experience”. The patterns she observed from this eventually led her to place great emphasis on sanitation.
The next time the ward sister reminds you the clean your hands in the MRSA ward, it’s Florence Nightingale speaking through her 😉
On a more personal note, although Nurses play a great variety of roles, my experience of them has largely been as “guardians”. Watching our backs, administering treatment, actually caring for patients, apart from merely treating them. Often, they take the brunt of the aggression from angry patients.
As a friend of mine often points out, I do wonder if they are under-appreciated by physicians, although there have been a lot of hints that the system could do better in taking care of them. Perhaps it is time to reconsider how nurses are remunerated? Maybe there is a need to clearly define, or perhaps redefine nursing? I do not know what the future holds and I don’t have immediate ideas. Nonetheless, I am greatly indebted to those nurses I have had to privilege to work with, both personally and professionally.
Happy Nurses Day!
And here is a picture of Nurses going on strike in Singapore in the 60s. It is still on the wall at SGH, I think 😛 Not that I am encouraging you to go on strike (we will all die), just that I have faith in the community to be resourceful and make bold reforms.