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International Nurses Day: Building a resilient, and highly qualified nursing workforce

Nursing is not for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. It takes compassion, empathy, and patience coupled with a strong desire to help others.

Nursing is a demanding job both physically and emotionally. Rewards are more difficult to come by and sometimes it’s just overwhelming. This week we celebrate nurses as the world comes together to acknowledge the importance of the nursing profession and to thank nurses for their work and sacrifices in the community.

Nurses Week is a time for nurses to reflect on their own careers and re-prioritize and refocus. In light of this year’s theme: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health, we have asked Nanju Kellie, nurse recruiter and former agency nurse to shed some light on her nursing career.

Nursing is a calling

Joining the profession because she wanted to do something in her career that is challenging, interesting, and makes a difference in people's lives daily, nursing was her call to action. “In the nursing profession, you deal with many aspects of patient care, and I enjoy the variety in the routine” she says. What drew her to the profession was her love and compassion for caring for people, and ultimately making a difference. Nanju adds that, “It is a rewarding and fulfilling career to look after patients throughout their ill health, to be able to relate to them and seeing them recover or get back to their base line”.

Adapting to nursing

It is important to adapt with healthcare as it continues to develop and change – whether this be pursuing personal development or undertaking professional development. Apart from that, Nanju has participated in many eLearning courses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking advantage of personal development through courses, reading, acquiring, and updating knowledge, training, and skills to meet with the changing times and development in healthcare.

The pandemic has been and still is challenging and stressful for nurses in clinical settings. Having contracted COVID-19 during the first wave and having long-term effects was a scary time for Nanju – who experienced psychological after-effects.

Before COVID-19, nurses were overlooked. The pandemic has led many to reflect on how important the role of a nurse really is. They had to go through many challenges through the pandemic, looking after their patients, putting their lives at risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their loved ones. The heart of the pandemic was also draining for agency nurses who had to step up to the plate by supporting the permanent staff who were off. Nurses had to just take it as part of their job, while continuing to fight to save lives, and in the process lost their own life.

The pandemics effects on nursing

COVID-19 affected working conditions, and the risk of burnout was inevitable. All nurses experienced long working hours accompanied by staff shortages, slow procurement and supply of much needed critical PPE equipment. Nanju shares that she was given a certain number of masks for the whole shift and had to write her name on them as she needed to reuse them due to shortages. “To cope, we tried to look at things from a positive perspective, by managing to follow the infection control policies and protocol to the best of what was at hand, interacting, checking on colleagues and knowing how they are coping as well, and supporting each other at work, so we will be able to care for the patients that needed us” she says.

Nurses working through the pandemic have shattered the stereotypes of nursing and made people more appreciative of the work that they do and the role that they fill. The world has seen first-hand the fundamental role nursing plays in patient’s safety.

Underinvestment in health systems

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses caused by underinvestment in health systems around the world. The theme for IND 2022 demonstrates the need to invest in nursing through continuous training and development, and a safe working environment, all geared towards building a resilient, and a highly qualified nursing workforce. When asking Nanju What needs to change to improve the workforce and protect nurses’ rights, she points out the need for new legislation and policies on working hours and a timely access to critical PPE to protect nurses’ rights, in order to transform health systems to cater for the needs of individuals and communities across the world, now and into the future.

Nanju adds that, “Nurses have suffered tremendously throughout the pandemic. They have been unnecessarily exposed to the virus, suffered from extreme workloads, and continue to be underpaid and undervalued. If governments don’t commit to more investment in the health workforce, it will be to the detriment of health systems globally”. It goes without saying that there are no good health systems without a well trained and equipped health workforce.

A voice to lead

Due to the virus having a long-term effect on Nanju, she was unable to return to the workforce and fulfil her passion. By being involved with the ICG Medical community, she was offered a job as a nurse interviewer and now adds great value to the recruitment process. She is able to use her knowledge and industry experience to make informed decisions regarding potential candidates to fill the staffing gaps in the NHS.

Healthcare is changing, time stands still for no one. We are encouraged today and every other day to use our voice to lead. Nanju shares that she uses her voice to respond to expectations from patients and their carers. For colleagues, she uses her voice to act as a champion of quality or to lead change in the workplace during shifts on the ward and in training sessions. In her present role as a Nursing Interviewer, she uses her voice to promote, coach and mentor, motivating and encouraging the interviewees to build their confidence and feel reassured of the integrity of the process.

Honouring nursing

It's not possible to ever stop being a nurse, even when you aren’t practising. As nurses, the need to care, to help and to hold will always shine through everything that you do. In every situation, your inner nurse will always come out – whether in experience, knowledge, or skills. “Being a Nurse Interviewer and having discussions with the interviewees on areas of practice also keeps me abreast of current practice” Nanju adds. Being a nurse means constant learning. Medical advances are happening daily, so it’s vital to stay up to date on the latest patient care.

We continue to honour this valuable profession and hope society remains appreciative of the unique knowledge and skills our nurses represent. As we celebrate International Nurses Day, let us not forget the anniversary of Florence Nightingale, who set the vision for modern nursing. Be your own lady with the lamp – shine your light and use your voice to lead. Our healthcare system needs you!