The history and future of nursing
Nursing Week recognizes the dedicated registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and registered practical nurses, who provide quality care for their patients, clients, and long-term care residents and is always held from the Monday to the Sunday of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, who was born May 12, 1820. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the founder of modern nursing’s birthday and 2020 is designated as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” by the World Health Organization (WHO). This designation seems almost prophetic in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when now more than ever, the knowledge, courage, and compassion of those in the nursing profession has never been more important or more apparent.
WHO WAS FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE?
Florence Nightingale was a true trailblazer who played a singular role in changing the policies around proper medical care. At a time when medical treatment was considered a luxury only for the wealthy, Nightingale improved medical standards for all.
In 1854, she and a team of 38 nurses were appointed to a British military hospital to tend to sick and fallen soldiers during the Crimean War. When they arrived, they were appalled by the horrendous conditions. The hospital was built on a sewer, which contaminated the water and the building itself. Even the most basic supplies like soap and clean water were scarce as the number of wounded and ill increased. In fact, more men died of infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, and malaria than from battle wounds. Nightingale and her nurses vastly improved the unsanitary conditions, which reduced the death count by two-thirds. Known for carrying a lamp while making her nightly rounds as she ministered aid to the wounded, they called her, “the Lady with the Lamp.”
NATIONAL NURSING WEEK
The theme of National Nursing Week this year is Nurses: A Voice to Lead — Nursing the World to Health. Developed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the theme was intended to showcase how nurses are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges. “Physicians often overshadow the important work that nurses do unless you’ve been in the hospital and experienced the 24/7 care they provide,” says RNAO President, Angela Cooper Brathwaite. “Nursing is a practice-based, knowledge-driven, art and science profession. Every nurse is a leader who enacts different domains of practice: teacher, practitioner, researcher, and administrator.”
2020: Year of the Nurse was meant to spotlight the importance of universal health care coverage and the risks associated with nursing shortages. Although many of the events and celebrations that were planned to raise the profile of the profession have been cancelled, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), is launching a social media campaign to help show gratitude and appreciation for nurses. On May 12th, RNAO will release the Enhancing Community Care for Ontarians (ECCO 3.0) Report, which examines the healthcare system in Ontario.
The shortage of nurses is a very real threat. Not only is the population increasing, so is the age of the population. Unless drastic actions are taken, WHO estimates a worldwide deficiency of 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2030.
As 2020 began, the International Council of Nurses (ICN), which represents 20 million nurses worldwide, was set to press governments around the world on the importance of making massive investments in nursing to ensure global health into the next decade. As a worldwide pandemic unfolds in front of us, we’re witnessing just how catastrophic a shortage of nurses would be.
COVID-19 AND LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES
COVID-19 has called attention to the amazing contributions nurses make, putting themselves at risk on the front lines every day to help others. But it’s also shone a light on the shortcomings in our healthcare system; perhaps most evidently in our long-term care facilities and primary care. Inadequate staffing and a flawed funding model were already threatening the quality of care available in many of Ontario’s long-term care homes.
There has been a marked increase in resident complexity since admission criteria changes in 2010. People are coming into long-term care facilities at a later stage of cognitive and physical impairment, meaning their needs are more complicated and they require more care. Compounding this issue is inadequate staffing levels and an inappropriate staffing mix to keep residents healthy and safe.
Currently there is no legislated minimum staffing ratio and many facilities employ a high ratio of unregulated staff. RNs represent only slightly more than 10% of the nursing care staff in long term care homes, while RPNs and PSWs account for 18% and 71%, respectively. Due to the increasing health complexities of the longterm care population, RNAO advocates a care model that assigns a primary nurse provider for each resident to improve health outcomes.
“The problems existed before COVID occurred, but it has been a wake-up call to all healthcare providers,” says Angela Cooper Brathwaite, “It’s time to address the problems and loopholes in Ontario’s healthcare system.”