International Nurses Day

The International Nurses day is observed every year on May 12th to raise awareness of the noble selfless role the nurses play in caring for the ill. They are the care givers.

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The Week starting May 6, is celebrated every year as the Nurses week, culminating on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.

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Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is the Mother of modern day nursing and her birthday is celebrated as International Nurses day.

Nightingale is a well-known English social reformer who is still remembered today for her contributions in the field of nursing.

The role of Nightingale came to fore during the Crimean War of 1853, when the British waged a war against the then USSR to control the Ottoman Empire. 18000 British soldiers were injured in the battle and were admitted to various military hospitals.

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The Crimean War, an artistic impression

However, these hospitals did not have any nurses to cater to the wounded. There was an uproar in England on the neglect of the wounded soldiers.

It is at this time that Nightingale got a letter from the secretary of War Sidney Herbert to arrange for nurses to cater to the injured soldiers in Crimea. Nightingale instantly came to task and organized a team of 34 nurses just within a few days and brought them to Crimea.

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Florence Nightingale’s team of nurses

The poor condition of the patients at the hospital there shook Nightingale as she set herself to work. The soldiers were immediately taken care of with compassion by her team of nurses. She created various services in the hospital to cater to the sick and wounded. The deaths rate of the hospital was soon reduced by two thirds.

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Nightingale at the hospital

Image: Courtesy Wikipedia

The soldiers who were moved by the twin qualities of efficiency and effectiveness of Nightingale’s service called her ‘The lady with the lamp’. The whole of England was touched by this compassion shown by Nightingale to the injured.

A line of praise was composed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Nightingale which has since then become popular,

Lo! In that house of misery

A lady with a lamp I see

Pass through the glimmering gloom

And flit from room to room

But, nursing was practiced in India even before Florence Nightingale.

Susrusha is the samskrt word for nurse. One of the meanings of this word is Seva, ‘Service’. Thus, the profession of nurse is synonymous with Service in India.

In the Indian ethos, a Nurse is among the 7 mothers, Sapta Mata who are honoured and revered.

The 7 Mothers being,

  1. Atma-mata – The mother, from whose womb we have come to this world
  2. Guru patni – The wife of the Guru.
  3. Brahmani – The wife of a Brahmana
  4. Raja-Patnika– The wife of the king – the Queen.
  5. Dhenu – Cow
  6. Dhatri – Nurse
  7. Tatha prithvi– Earth

The world’s first nursing school was founded in India around 250 BCE.

One of the ancient texts on Nursing, Sushruta Samhita, was written around 700 BCE by the great surgeon Sushruta. Sushruta considered nursing as one of the four padas of Cure. He says, “the doctor, the patient, the medicine and nurse are the four feet, Pada of cure.”

How true it is that many, times it is the care of nurse that has brought us cure!

Let us this nurse day honour all those nurses from ancient times till today who have shown us care in our critical times. Let us honour the care givers.

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