This year, May 12 is particularly meaningful and important.
For the past 18 months, nurses have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, working quietly and diligently to care for those impacted, as well as their own colleagues.
Being the health professionals that have the closest contact with patients, they often put their own needs aside to fulfil their caring responsibilities.
Many have contracted the virus and will have long term health issues of their own to fight.
Others will hold vivid memories of what they have witnessed for the rest of their lives.
The International Council of Nurses estimated that by December 2020, 1.6 million health workers had contracted COVID-19 - and this number would have increased significantly since then.
The pandemic has become another war where nurses have played a pivotal role.
Here in Australia, the pandemic has largely been controlled and things are returning to normal.
Elsewhere in the world, International Nurses Day will likely be unacknowledged as nurses, along with other health professionals, continue to grapple with the challenges and horrors that the pandemic continues to unleash.
Burnout among health professionals, including nurses, is a real thing and it is likely that many will choose to leave their chosen profession as a result.
Other challenges plague the profession.
The nursing workforce is ageing, with large numbers predicted to retire in the next 10 years. The nature of the work also makes retaining nurses difficult.
The International Council of Nurses estimates that by 2030, there will be a worldwide shortage of 13 million nurses.
There is an urgent need for governments to recognise the potential impact this will have on future patient care and act to ensure we can maintain our quality health care system.
Almost everyone either knows a nurse or has one in their family.
Nurses are highly educated and skilled professionals.
Yet, few would understand their work, and the contributions they make to local, national and international communities.
On this International Nurses Day, take a few moments to reflect on the impact nurses have made to your life, the lives of those around you and your local community.
If you can, take a little time to care for those who care for us.
Originally published in the Bendigo Advertiser.
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