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Celebrating nurses and midwives: thank you

Over the span of seven days we have been celebrating our nurses and midwives with the International Day of the Midwife (5 May) and International Nurses Day (12 May).

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) has announced this year's theme is ‘Midwives: Defenders of Women’s Rights’.

The ICM is encouraging midwives around the world to continue to protect “the rights of women, girls and midwives by ensuring they can exercise their full human rights, particularly their reproductive and sexual health rights in their communities and countries of practice”.

They call for midwives to fight instances of female genital mutilation and fight for the use of contraception in countries where its use is prohibited.

They want to celebrate those midwives who fight the gender pay gap and who are “fighting patriarchy” in all its forms.

The Australian College of Midwives CEO Ann Kinnear told Nursing Review that only eight per cent of women in Australia have access to a midwife, and that this is not good enough. Midwifery models of care reduce instances of stillbirth, increase mental health support and improve breastfeeding rates.

“This year’s IDM theme resonates strongly with the Australian College of Midwives. Defending women’s rights means increasing access to midwifery models of care, particularly those where women are cared for by a known midwife through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

“ACM is pleased to see the NHS committing an additional 40 million pounds to increase women’s access to a known midwife, with the aim of having 50 per cent of women being able to access this model by 2021. We would like to see the Australian government follow suit and commit to improving health outcomes for Australian mothers and babies,” she said.

International Nurses Day coincides with the birthday of the mother of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has announced the theme for this nursing day as “Voice to lead-Health for all”.

“For Health for All to be achieved there must be a transformation in the approach to health and wellbeing,” the ICN said.

The idea of 'health for all' was first articulated at the ‘Alma-Ata’ conference of 1978. This sought to recognise health as a human right, and urged countries to recognise that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".

“With a core role as a patient advocate, their scientific reasoning skills, numbers and spectrum of care across the continuum, nurses are ideally placed to lead and inform health services decision making and policy development."

HESTA has also recognised nurses and midwives by announcing its Nursing and Midwifery Awards.

The nurse of the year award went to Kate Curtis, from Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and Professor of Trauma and Emergency at the University of Sydney.

Curtis was recognised for her work in advocating to improve emergency hospital care across Australia and internationally, particularly for injured children.

She was instrumental in obtaining federal funding to develop a National Injury Prevention Strategy and is an internationally renowned emergency and trauma nurse clinical researcher.

“The most rewarding thing about this work is knowing that we’re making a difference through research and advocacy for this pandemic that is childhood injury. Injury is the leading cause of death and disability in Australian kids,” she said.

Midwife of the year went to Tracey Stephens from Monash Health in Victoria.

Stephens won the award for her work in improving maternity and health care outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and babies by implementing culturally appropriate and safe maternity health care services.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in my community are often vulnerable and experience many barriers when trying to access health care. This is why it’s really, really important for Aboriginal women like myself to be in roles like this, Aboriginal-led care is crucial to promoting the best possible health outcomes for these women and their babies,” she said.

“This is my dream role. Every day, I get the opportunity to work with women to achieve the best outcomes in their birthing journey. After birth, I am able to follow these women into the community and watch healthy babies and competent mothers thrive.”

This week we think about thanking those women and men who have helped us at the tough times in our lives.

Thank you to the nurse who calmed me down and cared for me when I was struck with Bells palsy, half of my face frozen and drooped, aged 21 and alone in a foreign country, thinking I had suffered a stroke.

Nursing Review managing editor Richard Garfield remembers the midwives at Sydney's Adventist Hospital.

“They were wonderful in helping us through a difficult birth (emergency caesarean). Their professionalism and caring attitude made the experience a lot easier,” he said.

And Jo from the Nursing Review sales team remembers the nurses who made the end of her grandfathers’ life slightly easier for her family.

“The nurse there was so amazing with him and my family. She made us feel so cared for and was so personable, especially towards the end of his life. The care that she and her colleagues provided helped us all through a very hard time with their compassion and still managed to put smiles on our faces,” she said.

“I have SO much respect for nurses, they have to deal with so much and should be recognised for the selfless work they do every day.”

Thank you to all nurses and midwives for the work you do, this week and every week.

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