Today is International Nurses Day, an annual event which occurs on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, an innovator in global nursing during her lifetime (born May 12, 1820, Florence, Italy; died August 13, 1910, Mayfair, London, United Kingdom).


Nurse Nightingale wrote: “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”


We cannot fear politics, diversity of religious beliefs, or demagoguery of any sort when it comes to the consideration of the health and well-being of every individual on the planet.


This year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has chosen a perfect theme: “A Voice to Lead: Health is a Human Right.”


In their publication on this year’s them, which includes extensive research and a range of innovative ideas, the ICN writes they are “at the forefront of advocating for access to health and nurses are the key to delivering it. All over the world, there are individuals and communities who are suffering from illness due to a lack of accessible and affordable health care. But we must also remember that the right to health applies to nurses as well! We know that improved quality and safety for patients depends on positive working environments for staff. That means the right to a safe working environment, adequate remuneration, and access to resources, and education. We must add to this the right to be heard and have a voice in decision making and policy development implementation!”


Together, all healthcare professionals – nurses, doctors, specialists, administrators, social workers, insurers, policy makers, and more – can join together to support those nurses who are transforming their profession so that no person is left behind – not a single child, mother, father, family or community.


Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director General of the World Health Organization) wrote:


“For me, the key question of Universal Health Coverage is an ethical one. Do we want our fellow citizens to die because they are poor? Or millions of families impoverished by catastrophic health expenditures because they lack financial risk protection? Universal Health Coverage is a human right.”


In June 2017, Dainius Puras, the United Nations Special Rapporteura presented his report on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.


The report focused on mental health care to which the Rapporteur concluded “nothing short of a ‘sea change’ will end years of neglect in mental health care.”


This report highlighted decades of neglect, abuse and violence against socially challenged groups including persons with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities suffered either because of the absence of care and support or receiving care that was ineffective and harmful.


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Why are nurses so vital in increasing the momentum towards health as a human right?


Nurses are often the most critical member of care teams. They choose the nursing profession because they genuinely wish to help others. They are at the forefront of patient-centered care, and the advocates along with the physicians they work with for quality care and quality experience of that care regardless of an individual’s financial or social circumstances.


Nurses go about quietly helping patients and families through the most difficult days of their lives.


When we support nurses in their missions – including missions around the world, where they often travel to deliver care after natural disasters, where they travel to help refugees keep their families together and keep mothers and their babies healthy, where they go to turn cleft palates into smiles…we are support the entire world.


Health systems are an essential element of a loving and equitable society. When health is viewed as a human right, we are all positioned to enable access.


I will leave you with a few facts, thanks to the ICN:


• At least 400 million people on our planet lack access to one or more essential health services, according to research.
• Each year 100 million people fall into poverty paying for essential services.
• 40% of the world’s population lacks social protection.
• For $44 per person per year, every person on our planet can be provided care when systems are built to deliver that care efficiently.


Health is the most basic human right. Services should be accessible to all without discrimination, including those living in poverty, minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children, people with disabilities, the growing number of elderly and babies being born into our world. We owe it to them all.


Nurses know this, they feel it in their hearts, and today they are our greatest advocates.


Happy International Nurses Day 2018 and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the nurses who have done so much for me and my family.