In celebration of the Year of the Nurse

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I will remain forever thankful to the matron and nursing staff of the provincial hospital where I did my internship. I walked into the Emergency Department on the first day of January twenty years ago now, feeling unprepared and overwhelmed by the stream of surgical presentations and emergencies. It was the nurses who taught me the ropes in a professional manner and built my confidence through selfless kindness.

Since then, it has been my privilege to work with and continue to learn from many other nurses in different clinical settings, in research, education, quality improvement and management. Nurses make invaluable contributions in all these roles and more besides, but what is most impressive for me is the way in which they make them. I am often reminded of the words from an anonymous poet who wrote that ‘it takes more grace than pen can tell to play the second fiddle well’.

It was therefore with great pleasure that I learnt the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. The celebration marks the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale and honours her legacy.

In May the first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report will be presented to the World Health Assembly. One of the key messages will be that at least 9 million more nurses and midwives will be required to achieve the goal of universal health coverage by 2030.

In Australia, around one in eight of our 640 000 health professionals are registered as primary care nurses. Of these, 14 000 work in general practice and two thirds of general practices employ at least one nurse.

The importance of the specialty of general practice is increasingly being recognized by policy makers and senior leaders as they search for solutions and strategies that will ensure health care remains sustainable and of the highest quality in the future.

As we celebrate the Year of the Nurse it is timely to consider our practice nurse workforce and how the role of practice nurse can be further strengthened, expanded and be formally recognized and supported.

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