Elaine Clancy, Chief Nurse at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, shares her thoughts on International Nurses Day 

Today (12 May 2023) is International Nurses Day, a day where we honour and celebrate the invaluable contribution our nurses make to our society.

Inspired by and celebrated globally on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, the theme this year is “Our Nurses. Our Future”. It is especially fitting as we look forwards at the ever-changing demands of the health service and the vital role nurses play within it. Despite any future challenges, the dedication and compassion nurses have for their patients really will never change.

The COVID-19 pandemic truly demonstrated the commitment our nurses had to looking after and keeping our community safe, often making major sacrifices themselves. Here at Croydon, we were one of the worst affected boroughs in the capital – COVID hit us harder, faster and longer than most, with a third of our population infected by the virus, yet the strength and professionalism of our nurses saved lives and kept families together in extremely challenging circumstances.

But whilst nurses were in the spotlight during the heights of COVID, along with other life-saving colleagues, it’s important to remember that we have been making a difference in healthcare settings and beyond since the inception of the National Health Service.

This July when we will also be celebrating the 75th birthday of the Service and all that it represents I’m certain nurses – the largest workforce within it – will be front and centre to receive the congratulations for their contribution to over seven decades of ‘free at point of use’ health provision.

The profession’s diversity – beginning with the arrival of nurses on The Empire Windrush just the month before the NHS formed in 1948 – has continued to broaden and bring a wealth of experience and cultural understanding of our patients. Now colleagues from all corners of the globe are working together to make sure those who are unwell are cared for respectfully. We are truly an international profession.

I myself have been in the nursing field for over 30 years and have seen a lot during that time.  Many don’t realise that nurses are often the first healthcare professional to interact with patients and sometimes the only one a patient will ever see.

They often take on the role as an advocate for their patients, ensuring that the patient’s needs and requirements are expressed. We’ve all had instances in our nursing careers where speaking with a patient’s family member, we uncover an important detail that wasn’t initially shared but makes a big difference to their recovery. Or times where we have had concerns that a treatment is not working as expected so speak with colleagues to make necessary changes to improve a patient’s experience.

Nurses don’t just undertake their roles in hospitals – our community nursing colleagues are often forgotten about and not praised enough. They provide an array of vital care in people’s homes, care homes and community clinics – simply when those who are unwell are unable to make it to the health service, our nurses head out to them. And, let’s not forget our wonderful school nurses who cover a breadth of specialisms to protect and educate the youngest in our communities, whilst hopefully inspiring the next generation to consider nursing as a career.

A profession that is as varied as it is exciting, nursing has always have been at the forefront of change in health care and public health. Nurses innovate and push for change through a lens of respect and dignity for their patients. They bring so much to the lives of their patients and their loved ones, so it is only right that we have a dedicated day that honours them and recognises their efforts

Happy International Nurses Day and thank you to all of the nurses of the past, present and to those aspiring to one to day join our noble profession – you are much appreciated.