"We continue to be inspired by the bravery, determination and resilience of nurses – their extraordinary ability to deal with everything being thrown at them and still return the next day, or night, to do it all over again."
Today is International Nurses Day. It's celebrated around the world to mark the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale and to salute all nurses for the extraordinary contributions they make to society.
Florence Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820 and known as the "Lady With the Lamp," was a British nurse, social reformer and best known as the founder of modern nursing.
She came to prominence during the Crimea War in Turkey (1853-56) when in charge of nursing British and allied soldiers. She spent many hours in the wards, and her night rounds giving personal care to the wounded established her image as the “Lady with the Lamp.” Her efforts to formalize nursing education led her to establish the first scientifically based nursing school – the Nightingale School of Nursing, at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London which was opened in 1860.
The Philippines has a long tradition of producing some of the world's best nurses. Soon after the Philippines became a U.S. colony in 1898, the U.S. implemented American nursing programmes in the Philippines. In 1948 the U.S. created the Exchange Visitor Program, which allowed foreign professionals to come to the U.S. to work for two years.
In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, which allowed a larger number of immigrants from around the world to come to the U.S. There was a critical shortage of nurses and hospitals started advertising for Filipino nurses.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today, from New York to London, Sydney to Singapore, you will find Filipino nurses working in hospitals and clinics throughout the world. They not only are reliable and good at their work but they are passionate, charismatic and caring. And their high level of English is a real plus point.
In my own country, Britain, an amazing number of Filipinos work for the state-run National Health Service (NHS). At last count, there were over 40,000 Filipino nurses in the NHS and many more in private hospitals.
For many people, the key role played by nurses was perhaps not recognized or truly appreciated until COVID-19 struck. In these troubling times, nurses have been real heroes working tirelessly to save so many lives. Sadly, many nurses have also paid the ultimate price fighting the virus both here and overseas. They have been proclaimed heroes for their extraordinary deeds.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Around the world, nurses are on the front lines battling COVID-19 daily. We continue to be inspired by the bravery, determination and resilience of nurses – their extraordinary ability to deal with everything being thrown at them and still return the next day, or night, to do it all over again.
To nurses everywhere – the unsung heroes, with selflessness that knows no bounds – we thank you and we salute you!
Robert Harland is a British national based in Makati and Bacolod City.