President, The Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International
As a lifelong nurse and nurse educator, I have always respected Nurses Week and International Nurses Day. Throughout my career, I have taken advantage of that day each year to celebrate my profession and the impact it has made on world health. This year continues the theme of Nurses: A Force for Change. And while the official theme concentrates on improving health systems resilience, I think of that in terms of influence.
In my current role as President of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), International Nurses Day takes on additional significance. As all STTI presidents before me, I created a Presidential Call to Action to guide my biennium of service; the theme of that Call to Action is Influence to Advance Global Health and Nursing. In my call, I identified four ways that nurses can develop influence through advocacy, policy, philanthropy, and lifelong learning. I believe the theme of influence is relevant to today’s celebration of International Nurses Day, and relevance, when it comes to nurses, can be traced back to one woman.
We celebrate International Nurses Day on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. If you want an example of influence in its purest form, look no further. Florence Nightingale was a woman whose life, work, and writings transformed the profession of nursing and forever impacted healthcare. She was so influential that the humble utilitarian lamp most associated with her has become a time-honored icon of the nursing profession, with its image on countless logos and seals of nursing schools and organizations. If one person can have that kind of influence, imagine the possible influence of millions of nurses today. That’s right – millions. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 19.3 million nurses and midwives woven into every element of healthcare worldwide.
One of the great gifts that my STTI leadership position has afforded me is the opportunity to travel to many regions of the world, from Asia to the Middle East to Europe and Latin America. This summer, I will add South Africa and Australia to that growing list. In every one of my travels, no matter the cultural differences, I have been thrilled to meet passionate, masterful nurses and midwives who care deeply about their profession and their colleagues, but most importantly, about the lives and health of those they serve. They are influencing nursing and healthcare in their own way every day.
Given the global nature of our work, I am delighted to share a new publication that provides a definition of global health and global nursing. I hope this will be useful in providing a framework to guide your work in the many arenas in which we practice and influence.
As I consider the impact that Florence Nightingale made on an entire profession and the world, I think about the vast number of nurses serving in various roles today. I will repeat here what I say in my Call to Action: Now is the time for nurses to leverage our expertise to influence the health of the world’s people and to advance the profession. Happy International Nurses Day!