International Nurses Day is organised on 12 May to celebrate the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. Each year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) comes up with a theme to honour nurses. For 2020, the theme chosen for International Nurse Day is ‘Nursing the world to health.’

 International Nurses Day 2020: Nursing the world to health, here’s all you need to know

An Italian nurse with impressions on her face after long use of PPE kit to treat COVID-19 patients.

History of International Nurse’s Day

Florence Nightingale was the first person to turn the nursing profession into an organised sector with standardised roles and responsibilities.  In 1854, she brought 38 volunteer nurses to care for soldiers during the Crimean War. Prior to that, both male and female nurses were usually untrained family members of soldiers who tended to the ill and the wounded.

Nightingale is credited with founding the modern professional nursing, being instrumental in improving sanitation, hygiene and nutrition of the ill.

The day was first proposed by an officer with the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Dorothy Sutherland in the year 1953 and subsequently proclaimed by the then president Dwight D Eisenhower. International Nurse’s Day was first celebrated by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in the year 1965.

In the UK, a service is held in London’s Westminster Abbey in honour of nurses and healthcare workers. A symbolic lamp is taken from the Nurses’ Chapel and handed from one nurse to another.

This year’s International Nurses Day is special because it marks the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted that nurses are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics, stating that the COVID-19 is a reminder of the important role nurses play.

WHO stressed that without nurses and other health workers, the battle against outbreaks will not be won and the world will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or universal health coverage.