It seems fitting that on the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, nurses are being celebrated the world over for their bravery, kindness, skills and sacrifice.
The International Day of the Nurse coincides with the worst pandemic in a century. COVID-19 has already infected more than four million people and killed over 280,000, including a rising tally of healthcare workers.
Being on the frontline of the pandemic has been bittersweet for the global nursing profession, according to Professor Marion Eckert, Director of the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre and Professor of Cancer Nursing in South Australia.
“2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” says Prof Eckert. “We should be planning celebrations this year but instead we are battling a silent killer, leaving not only ourselves vulnerable but our families, too.”
Nurses comprise the largest single workforce in Australia, numbering around 380,000 in this country and 28 million worldwide, eclipsing every other profession.
Their role is important in normal circumstances; right now, it is pivotal to containing a disease that is crippling health systems and economies across the globe.
“The value of nurses has never been more prominent. Every day they are going to work, not knowing if they are going to be infected, or inadvertently infect others. It becomes all encompassing, yet they have to put that aside and focus on the task at hand – caring for others.”
Prof Eckert says the community recognition and appreciation has helped nurses cope in these difficult months, particularly in countries where the coronavirus has left an enormous toll.
“People clapping in the streets and their neighbourhoods, supermarkets opening early specifically for healthcare workers, and simple gestures like cafes giving free coffees to nurses are all making a difference,” she says.
And despite the stresses currently facing the nursing profession, there are opportunities emerging from this crisis. The fast tracking of tele health services is allowing nurses to connect with remote and rural communities in ways they have never done before.
The newfound respect for nurses and interest in their role also bodes well for future investment in nursing education and research.
In recent days, UniSA’s Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre has seized the initiative to establish a clinical research network to collaborate on translational nursing and midwifery research across Australia and New Zealand.
The centre’s namesake has welcomed the move, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has identified some important gaps in nurses’ and midwives’ education.
Dr Rosemary Bryant AO, Australia’s first Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Director, and former Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing Australia, says nursing research receives scant funding compared to health research overall.
“Nurses comprise the largest workforce in the country and there is a critical need for research in that area alone,” Dr Bryant says. “It is also timely to look at changes to both the content and length of nursing courses to ensure we are educating them adequately for future challenges.”
Describing nurses as “the glue that holds the health system together,” Dr Bryant says in her 50 plus years in the profession, she has seen a gradual shift in community perception towards nurses.
“Salaries and working conditions have both improved in recent decades, reflecting the higher status of nurses, but there are subtle shifts, too. Patients have always thanked doctors, but now they are thanking nurses as well. And while people have always been aware of the role that nurses play, this has been heightened during this pandemic.”
Dr Bryant says Florence Nightingale, acknowledged as the world’s founder of modern nursing, would be “blown away” by the global efforts of the nursing fraternity to defeat COVID-19.
“It was her work in the Crimean War that led to modern infection control and the saving of so many lives. She was the first person to demonstrate that cleanliness and distancing hospital beds were the key to fighting disease.”
Two hundred years later, Nightingale’s legacy is crystal clear.
The NSW Government has today announced the approval of a $1.49 billion revamp of the Mt Druitt CBD, which will create 15,000 jobs and breathe new life into Western Sydney.The green light for the rezoning proposal paves the way for more than 2,800 new homes to be built in the precinct, as well as new cafés, restaurants, retail outlets and commercial space in taller buildings.Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the Mt Druitt CBD rezoning was one of the first projects to have its assessment fast-tracked as part the Planning System Acceleration Program that is keeping people in jobs and the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.“This project has been three years in the making and marks the beginning of an exciting new future for Western Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.“More than 2,900 construction jobs will be created to build this vibrant new hub, as well as thousands more permanent jobs as the new CBD comes to life.”Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the Mt Druitt CBD rezoning is the sixth project to be determined through the Government’s new fast-tracked assessment program. “In the past two weeks alone, the Planning System Acceleration Program has injected $1.87 billion in to the State’s economy and created opportunities for more than 16,000 jobs,” Mr Stokes said.“Today’s approval is another exciting step forward for Western Sydney and means development applications for the Mt Druitt CBD can be lodged immediately.”The NSW Government has worked closely with Blacktown City Council to amend its Local Environmental Plan, which rezones 24 hectares of land to facilitate more mixed-use commercial and residential development.
Students across NSW will start returning to the classroom this week as the managed approach to schools begins.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell thanked students, staff, Principals, teachers and support staff for the way they have conducted themselves during this challenging time.
Ms Berejiklian said today was an important step forward for NSW as it demonstrates our commitment to kick starting our economy again and prioritising community recovery.
“Schools are a crucial part of our response to COVID-19 and I want to thank the students, Principals, teachers and parents for being flexible and responding quickly to delivering education during the pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I urge parents and carers to follow the advice provided by their schools and encourage them to only send their children on the days they have been allocated.
“This approach means Principals can monitor the return of students and address any issues with their school plans as they prepare to return to more face to face learning.
“Today is the first step towards a full school return, something I hope to see happening very soon if the next couple of weeks go well.”
Schools still remain open for all students who need to attend campus every day and the current model of a single unit of work remains to reduce the burden on teachers.
The majority of high schools have provided additional time for Year 12 and on average HSC students will receive three days allocated classroom time.
Ms Mitchell said she was eager to see students back in the classroom and was focused on returning the education of NSW students to normal as quickly as possible.
“Our Principals, teachers, support staff, parents and carers have gone above and beyond to continue the education of our students while we respond to this pandemic,” Ms Mitchell said.
A massive logistical effort is underway to ensure that schools remained stocked with essentials and cleaned daily.
“Normally schools stock their hygiene supplies, a huge operation is ongoing to centralise that job while supplies remain hard to source,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Initially, we have dispatched more than 10,800 deliveries to schools, including more than 2000 litres of liquid soap, 22,000 bars of soap, and over 42,000 bottles of hand sanitiser.
“In addition, a first aid room care package containing personal protective equipment and a non-contact temperature monitor has been dispatched to every school in NSW.
“A rolling program of deliveries is scheduled to continue to meet the needs of schools on an ongoing basis.”
Schools are expected to remain in this current stage for at least two weeks.