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A day to honour our nurses

It could not be more timely that the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The courageous work of nurses and other healthcare workers in face of coronavirus does honour the YONM 2020 and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth on 12th May, now celebrated as International Nurses Day.

Known as the “Lady with the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale was a British nurse, social reformer and statistician, best known as the founder of modern nursing. Her experiences as a nurse during the Crimean War were foundational in her views about sanitation. She helped revolutionize medicine with her no-nonsense approach to hygiene, sanitation and patient care and turned nursing into a valued profession. Her teachings are therefore as relevant today as it was in her time.

Two of her works, Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing: What it Is and What it is Not, laid out her theories for future generations of health care professionals and remain in print to this day. They include practical advice on key topics, including the need for fresh air and ventilation, dietary rules, how to compassionately (but honestly) care for the desperately ill and, of course, good sanitation and hygiene, including the dictum: "Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day. If her face too, so much the better."

On Tuesday the 12th May, we will pay tribute to the 20 million nurses across the world. Each one of them has a story. They know about hope and courage, joy and despair, pain and suffering, and life and death. As an ever-present force for good, nurses hear the first cries of new born babies and witness the last breaths of the dying. They are present at some of life’s most precious moments, and at some of its most tragic. Nurses serve humanity and, by their actions, they protect the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and nations.

Compassion has often been described as the ‘true North’ of the nursing moral compass and Florence Nightingale’s legacy included her utter commitment to the nurse “being of the right temperament, character and education.”

“At Stepping Stone Hospice, we believe our nurses and carers continue to honour Nightingale’s legacy through the compassion, respect and utmost professionalism they care for those facing the devastating effects of a life-limiting illness. We honour each one of them and we want to thank them for helping us deliver on our promise to our patients – “You are Not Alone”! Thank you and we salute you,” says CEO, Tersia Burger.

No other photo can depict the Stepping Stone Hospice clinical care staff’s commitment to their patients better than this one. Standing a guard of honour when the deceased is being fetched by the funeral parlour, forms part of their care for that patient and his/her family. The staff will wait until the hearse leaves the premises before they will walk back into the In-Patient Unit – a gesture showing their final respects to the patient, even in death.

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