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The year 2020 is the year to start valuing nurses

One positive outcome from the COVID-19 crisis could be that we might finally understand the true value of nurses.

That’s the opinion of Cath Rogers, a former nurse and the current Dean of Health at Torrens University.

“I think the key issue is the status of nursing. And I think, again, there are global differences. But in every country nurses will talk about the fact that they feel that their work is undervalued, and I think that’s critically linked to the fact that nursing continues to be seen as a women’s profession,” she says.

“And unfortunately, women’s work is not always well valued or well-recognised by society. It’s taken for granted. And I think the focus on, ‘Yes, we love nurses, we trust nurses.’ This is clear, that’s all fantastic. But what it doesn’t acknowledge is how demanding the role actually is, how professional the role’s become, and how the skillset has developed and become specialised in different areas of practice over time.”

The year 2020 was officially designated to be the year of the nurse in celebration of a profession that has now become a focal point around the globe during the pandemic.

Rogers says that the pandemic should not obscure the fact of the fundamental role nurses play in providing healthcare.

“I think globally the Year of the Nurse is all about recognising that nurses are fundamental and central to universal healthcare; meaning that it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, that you have access to the same good quality health care.

“And there’s been a nursing shortage predicted globally for a long time, but never is that more pronounced than in developing countries. And in many communities, a nurse is the only healthcare worker who is available for that community.

“And so the Year of the Nurse is about wanting to highlight the absolute centrality of nursing globally, and particularly its role, I think, in improving poverty, and improving just life circumstances for people in developing countries, as well as countries like our own.”

As we look to the post-COVID-19 future we should continue to improve the nursing profession, according to Rogers, and that should start with how we train our nurses.

“I think for a long time, in terms of educating nursing, we’ve recognised that a three-year degree is not long enough to prepare a registered nurse to function very well across a range of settings. The campus of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery for example, have long advocated that we need a four-year degree as a minimum,” she says.

“I know from many years working as a head of nursing, before I became a Dean, is that it’s really, really hard to teach everything that you need to teach within that three-year window. And so no matter how skilled we get at doing better with simulation, and doing better with blended delivery, we will never be able to provide enough education within that three-year model.”

Rogers says that 2020 should also be used to give a renewed emphasis to some areas of nursing that often get less recognition, like aged care nursing.

“Typically in nursing there’ve been some areas of practise where they are seen as, if I dare to say the term ‘sexier’ than others, like a hierarchy of practise areas. And they tend to be areas like intensive care, operating theatre, emergency departments.

“They’re seen as the high-status areas, and nurses in aged care for example, they are seen as less valuable. I think that needs to change. And the Year of the Nurse gives us the opportunity to look at those broader areas and acknowledge the work of nurses wherever they practise.”

Last week we celebrated the international day of the nurse and Rogers talked with our sister publication, Nursing Review, about the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for nurses.

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  1. Claire Schmierer

    I think we should value all of those who work in health care and services, including but not limited to: cleaners, catering staff, carers, administrators, maintenance and grounds, life style, allied health, scientists not just nurses. Nurse are not the only personnel who are at the front-line. Without all of the links in the chain, we have no holistic care, minimize the opportunity for resident/customer/patient focused care and could not operate.

  2. Thank you to all our nurses and other health professionals and staffs who are risking their lives to save other peoples lives.

  3. Gordon Tribbick

    Claire, you are right however nurses are the frontline, the real heroes