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International Nurse’s Day: Caring for care givers

Published: 10 May 2012

International Nurse’s Day is celebrated around the world on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Also known as the Lady with the Lamp, the pioneer of modern nursing has been romanticised as a figure that glides from bed to bed by candle light, gently and tentatively tending to the needs of wounded soldiers and bringing comfort to her patients.

Although today it remains a nurse’s mandate to care for the holistic well being of the patient, the reality of working conditions paints a far less glamorous picture.

Having spent many years in the health care profession and now stationed as Algoa Bay Council for Aged’s (ABCA) resident nurse, Vodacom Change the World volunteer, Nicky Joubert, says that nursing is a very gratifying profession. “As an individual, a nurse can reap many emotional rewards from their job and find it highly fulfilling. However, with long shifts, understaffed hospitals, a lack of facilities to take care of patients and insufficient medication to provide for the patients’ needs, nurses can become very frustrated,” explains the volunteer. “Not only does health care decline, but nurses are not able to adequately care for their patients, causing many to go into the private sector or leave the profession altogether.”

Fellow Change the World volunteer and psychologist stationed at The Smile Foundation, Sarah Barnes, offers insight into the situation. “Nurses, as a group, are known for working beyond the call of duty, leading to exhaustion and neglect of themselves and their families. Moreover, due to the lack of nursing staff, they do not have time to attend training programmes that allow them to up-skill and grow within their careers. Due to the many demands made on them by patients, patients’ families, doctors and hospital management, I come across many nurses who feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Without proper support, nurses quickly become burnt out.”

To assist nurses with these challenges, Barnes will be holding Stress Management workshops at the hospitals around the country wherein The Smile Foundation operates. “I would like to show the nurses that we acknowledge that theirs is a demanding profession and without them, not only would hospitals not run, but the Foundation would not be able to do their job without them,” continues the psychologist. The workshops aim to make them aware of the impact that a lack of self-care can have on their patients, their families and most importantly themselves. “The space will allow nurses to confidentially share their frustrations, receive further help where necessary and feel supported,” details Barnes.

“With loyalty will I devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care,” is a nurse’s pledge and with the importance of their work and the shortage of numbers, the nursing profession needs to be encouraged. “However, for nurses to properly fulfil their mandate, they also need to be taken care of and International Nurses’ Day is an opportunity to do something small for them,” concludes Barnes.

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