Every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) campaigns a number of global public health days to “raise awareness and understanding about health issues and mobilize support for action, from the local community to the international stage” – simply put, it aims to raise awareness of healthy lifestyles and health professionals on a global scale.

This years’ WHO World Health Day, celebrated on the 7th of April, is dedicated to Nurses and Midwives. It is an exciting one as it is also the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife!”

Whether nursing humans or hounds, the BVNA celebrates the passion of both professions in this blog, both who often work tirelessly behind the scenes.

The History of Nursing – Florence Nightingale

Known as the founder of modern day nursing, Florence Nightingale cared for wounded soldiers in the Crimean War during the 1850’s and often did her rounds at night where she became known as “The Lady with the Lamp”.

She followed the wishes of her affluent family that she did not work as a nurse which was considered a profession similar to a servant at the time. However, years later she felt a strong desire to devote her life to the service of others, so she then started to self-educate in the art and science of nursing.

While working at a hospital in Turkey, she was shocked by the horrific conditions in front of her; there were soldiers laying in dirty and bloodied bandages, and more soldiers dying from infection rather than their wounds. It was here that she found her passion to raise the standards of nursing, improve sanitary conditions and assess patients through the day and night. She even gave advice and taught the patients on how to care for themselves!

When she arrived back into the UK after the war, she opened a nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London (now part of King’s College London) – where it is still the top Nursing school in the UK! Florence Nightingale also has a number of prestigious awards named after her to recognise some of the most outstanding healthcare professionals today.

There is a Florence Nightingale museum in Westminster (London) where you can learn more about her life and her impact as a nurse, and also see some of her personal items. There is a bicentenary celebration this year as she was born 200 years ago.

Our Nurses and Midwives Today

As the first point of call in many different communities, nurses and midwives have a core role in providing and promoting health services to the public – from caring and giving advice to mothers and children, to looking after the older generation and providing their everyday needs.

There are over 300,000 nurses in the UK, which make up part of the 21 million nurses in the world – and incredibly they account for almost 50% of the global health workforce! However, over 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed in the next decade to achieve universal health coverage.

The WHO framework for strengthening nurses and midwives in the industry to improve global health has four themes:

  • Ensuring an educated, competent and motivated workforce within effective and responsive health systems at all levels and in different settings
  • Optimizing policy development, effective leadership, management and governance
  • Maximizing the capacities and potential of nurses and midwives through professional collaborative partnerships, education and continuing professional development
  • Mobilizing political will to invest in building effective evidence-based nursing and midwifery workforce development

As you can see, this can very easily be adapted into the veterinary industry!

The History of Veterinary Nurses in the UK

In the latest edition of “RCVS Facts” released – there are almost 15,000 Registered Veterinary Nurses in the UK, with a history that starts almost 100 years after Florence Nightingale opened her own nursing school. We have caught up quickly!

The RCVS has been established since 1844, but it wasn’t until 1961 that they first approved an Animal Nursing Auxiliary (ANA) training scheme with the first ANA qualifying a year later. In 1984 the title ‘veterinary nurse’ was first used and in 2007 a register of veterinary nurses was started.

As regulations have been passed and councils created for veterinary nurses, we have a well established role in the veterinary profession – and without a doubt, there is a midwifery role in our veterinary nurse title. From answering questions and giving advice to clients about breeding and whelping, to assisting in a caesarian section!

Back to the World Health Day

Considering the current global pandemic, we need our incredible nurses more than ever! Thank you for everything you do as part of the NHS team.