Nurses, the cornerstone of health system

2019-05-21 14:51
Michen Smith, Nomvuyo Ntuli and Etasha Coetzee kept candles lit while the nurses took a pledge to the nursing profession. PHOTO: THABANG KUAHO

Michen Smith, Nomvuyo Ntuli and Etasha Coetzee kept candles lit while the nurses took a pledge to the nursing profession. PHOTO: THABANG KUAHO

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Nurses at Groote Schuur Hospital celebrated International Nurses Day on 15 May.

The day is observed annually on 12 May as a celebration to modern nursing founder Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

Attendees had motivational talks from esteemed guests like the hospital’s chief operations officer Doctor Bernadette Eick; provincial minister of health Nomafrench Mbombo; and head of ministry in the provincial department of health Doctor Douglas Newman-Valentine.

Newman-Valentine said for the longest time, he has had problems with how the nurses have been referred to.

“Often society refers to nurses as the backbone of the healthcare system and, in a more progressive way, society are referring to nurses as the cornerstone of the healthcare system,” he said.

“In a sense, it could be seen as a compliment because backbones and cornerstones are necessary and important. We cannot live as human beings without a backbone, and buildings cannot be erected without cornerstones.”

“But backbones and cornerstones are extremely uneventful, unexciting and kindly not even sexy. Never will a person compliment you on your perfect backbone and I am 100% sure not one of you made an effort to look at the beautiful, strong and sturdy cornerstones of this hospital.”

Keeping to this year’s theme, A Voice to Lead – Health for All, he said the time to move towards a positive space has come.

“This theme is extremely loaded, and essentially calls on all nurses to take action, and strengthen the health system.”

He said the first part of the theme meant that nurses act as a voice for the vulnerable who are at their lowest points.

“When people have lost their voice, it is the nurse that should be that voice for the patient and empower them to the point where they have regained theirs back.”

“However, before we can get to that role and be the voice of the vulnerable, nurses must as a collective, work their own vulnerability,” he said.

He encouraged nurses to become active in trade union spaces in order to ensure that the needs of the largest subset of healthcare workers remain on the agenda.

Eick said the day was an opportunity for nurses to reflect on why they joined the profession.

“I would like you to reflect on what made you take that pledge and join the profession in the first place. We have the power to shape this world for future generations,” she said.

She said it was a good reason for the day to be observed on a specific date, but nurses need to spend each day celebrating being a nurse.

“We do not always make people feel better and I know it saddens us, but we have to remember why we are in here in the first place,” she said.

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