Int'l Nurses Day: Nightingale's spirit shines in COVID-19 battle

May 12 marks the International Nurses Day and the 200th birth anniversary of famed British nurse Florence Nightingale. 

In the 19th century, Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, brought nursing from a disreputable vocation into a respectful profession with bravery and intelligence, which not only decreased the death rate of injured soldiers at the time, but also has benefited many till today.

The year 2020 saw the COVID-19 pandemic contracting more than four million people and taking over 280,000 lives around the world. But nurses across the world have braved the danger, controlled their fears and shouldered the responsibility of carrying forward Nightingale's spirit in fighting the virus.

Fearless nurse working in Brazilian favela

In Brazil, Enderson Matos, who has been a nurse for 15 years, joined a front-line seven-person rescue team in Paraisopolis, one of the country's largest favelas.

To save lives in quick response, Matos left his home and family and lived in a temporary dormitory with his team members in Paraisopolis, where over 100,000 people lived without government assistance and lots of small alleys and houses built on top of each other, which makes it hard for medical services to reach the area.

"You would want to step forward, you want to help," Matos said. "I'm not afraid of the coronavirus. That is my mission."

Six Chinese nurses parenting quarantined baby and child

The parents of a family in east China's Anhui Province contracted the coronavirus and were then hospitalized, leaving a baby and a child, both as the close contacts, for no one to attend.

Six nurses at an isolation facility offered to be temporary mothers to attend the children by feeding them, bathing them and washing their clothes.

The video report of the story was re-posted by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on social media. "Health workers are bearing the biggest burden in the COVID-19 outbreak. This touching video shows the efforts and love nurses are investing in their jobs and patients to save lives," he said.

Nurse Michela Venturi with her collegues at the COVID-19 unit of an Italian hospital. /Facebook

Nurse Michela Venturi with her collegues at the COVID-19 unit of an Italian hospital. /Facebook

Nurse writing letter to Italian PM

In March, Michela Venturi, a nurse at the COVID-19 unit of an Italian hospital, wrote a letter to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

In this letter, she detailed the situation of all the doctors, nurses and healthcare personnel, urging the prime minister to remember their efforts when the crisis is over. "I often feel alone, but I remain on my feet, because tomorrow I will have to do my job again. I don't give up," she wrote in the letter.

"My goal is to sensitize people about public health," said Venturi. "We can't survive without public health."

More support for nurses

In May 2019, the World Health Assembly designated 2020 as the first-ever International Year of Nurse and Midwife.

"Nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system. In 2020, we're calling on all countries to invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all," said WHO chief Dr. Ghebreyesus.

According to a WHO report, the current shortage of some 5.9 million nurses will increase, as one in six nurses worldwide is expected to retire within the next 10 years.

To bridge the nursing gap, investments are needed to expand educational opportunities, increase nurses' payments and improve their working conditions, so that the number of nursing graduates can increase and more are able to find jobs and remain attached to healthcare systems.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical role that nurses play in protecting people's health and saving lives.

Video editor: Zeng Hong'en

Cover image designer: Liu Shaozhen