OPINION: Nurses deserve  day of acknowledgment

SUNDAY is International Nurses Day, celebrated annually by nurses across the globe on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year, International Nurses Day also falls on Mothers’ Day, a coincidence that couldn’t be more fitting considering the generosity of spirit that lies at the heart of both nursing and parenting.

As the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who was born in 1820, paved the way for a profession that now attracts more than 13million men and women worldwide.

While today’s nurses work with the benefits of medical facilities, technology and pharmaceuticals advanced way beyond anything that could have been imagined by ‘‘The Lady With The Lamp’’, the compassion and professionalism with which she nursed remains at the very heart of the profession.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) – a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations, including the Australian Nursing Federation – defines nursing as the “autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well, and in all settings”.

The definition goes on to say nursing includes “the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people”.

With two young sons of my own, I am well aware of the invaluable role nurses play in shaping our health system. We rely on their professionalism and their commitment to deliver the highest standards of patient care. Like anyone who has spent time in a hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, I know how comforting the face of a familiar nurse arriving for their shift can be in the alien, bustling world of a ward.

In my role as member for Charlestown, I’ve been able to meet a number of new and experienced nurses within our local health system and in doing so I have seen just how indebted we are as a society to our dedicated nurses and midwives.

Earlier this year, I was privileged to welcome new graduate nurses and midwives into their roles within the Hunter New England Local Health District. In total, more than 2000 graduates joined the profession in NSW this year, and it was incredibly rewarding to see so many employed in the Hunter.

Indeed, the Hunter New England Local Health District has employed more new nurses than any other district in the state, with the ranks

 of our public nursing staff growing by 616 since March 2011.

Back home, it was great to be able to share the excitement of our nurses and health staff at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital last month when Minister for Health Jillian Skinner visited to announce that planning was under way for a dedicated children’s intensive-care unit at the hospital. The multimillion-dollar project will give young patients and their families access to a world-class unit housing six specialist paediatric care beds, state-of-the-art equipment and medical, surgical and major trauma services.

As a father, as well as a member of Parliament, it’s comforting to know that when it’s needed, our kids not only have access to the care of the Hunter’s dedicated nurses but also to a world-class intensive-care unit.

Andrew Cornwell is the Liberal state member for Charlestown