By Hon Wendy C. Phipps Minister with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs
Sunday, May 12, 2019
Fellow Citizens & Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:
International Nurses’ Day is being celebrated in St. Kitts and Nevis today, Sunday, May 12th 2019. In union with the rest of the international community, our Federation pauses to publicly acknowledge the indispensable contribution that has been made - and continues to be made - by the nursing fraternity the world over in the magnanimous effort of helping to preserve health and restore wholeness and healing to our global citizens in a manner that is compassionate and professional, and designed to maintain at all times the dignity of the human person.
This year’s celebration of International Nurses’ Day is being observed under the theme “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Health for All”. Each year, the annual observance of International Nurses’ Day is held on May 12th, the date that would have been the birthday of 19th Century Nurse Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered as the founder of modern-day nursing. Coincidentally, this year’s International Nurses’ Day also falls on Mothers’ Day which is a time specially set aside to honour all mothers for their roles as nurturers, sacrificial providers, protectors, educators and role models for our Nation’s children. On Mothers’ Day our Government also accords due respect and appreciation to those individuals who have stood in the gap and filled the role of mothers in the lives of others who were desperately in need of such care, attention, and guidance. On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I extend sincere Mothers’ Day greetings to all of our Country’s mothers. To all of our nurses we also say “Happy International Nurses’ Day”! The 2019 theme for International Nurses’ Day which is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Health for All” was chosen by the International Council of Nurses (ICN). In large measure, this year’s theme builds on those chosen over the past few years wherein there was a deliberate intention to focus on the advocacy role nurses must perform on behalf of their patients, regardless of their socio-economic, cultural or political status. Having said that, it also stands to reason that this year’s theme is a call to action for the global nursing fraternity to lend their voices to those of their counterparts in the healthcare industry – be they doctors, specialists, therapists, pharmacists and other technicians who together are charged with providing top quality, accessible healthcare services to all concerned, at every stage of the healthcare continuum.
It is also clear that inclusion of the phrase “Health for All” in the 2019 theme of International Nurses’ Day is meant to show solidarity with premier bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) insofar as the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) “#3: Good Health and Well-being” is concerned. This message has particular resonance for the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis who has been actively been engaged in the process of bringing to fruition Universal Health Coverage to all of our citizens.
It is customary in our Federation for our local nurses to spread out their celebrations for International Nurses’ Day over an entire week of activities.
No less is being done this year. In fact, the 2019 observance of International Nurses’ Day covers the period Friday, May 10th to Friday, May 31st, and includes a number of activities, such as:
- Annual Luncheon and Awards Ceremony held on Friday, May 10th for 72 nursing and allied staff members of the JNF General Hospital, based on their performance in 2018;
- Graduation Ceremony for Nursing Attendants of Batch # XIV who successfully completed the mandatory 12-week training programme - held on Friday, May 10th;
- Candlelight Service held at 7:00 pm on Friday, May 10th at St. Barnabas Anglican Chapel on Fort Thomas Road, Basseterre;
- All-day, Nursing Symposium to be held on Monday, May 13th at JNF General Hospital’s classroom, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; and
- General Election & Installation of the Newly Elected Board for the St. Kitts Nurses’ Association slated for Friday, May 24th and Friday, May 31st, respectively.
Several special events have also been ongoing in Nevis, in celebration of Nurses’ Week 2019.
Our Team Unity Government uses this opportunity of International Nurses’ Day 2019 to congratulate all of our nurses. The Government, and in particular, our Ministry of Health, acknowledges fully that jobs in the nursing field are anything but slight undertakings. All of our dedicated, knowledgeable and conscientious nurses know quite well what it means to be fully vested in the care and management of their patients. They are also aware of the direct correlation between the level of consistent, high quality nursing care and positive, rehabilitative health outcomes for patients under their care and supervision. More than doctors, medical specialists and allied healthcare professionals, nurses are the ones in constant contact with patients, particularly those whose care is being managed in a hospital setting. The same can be said of our dedicated nurses who toil in the community-based healthcare setting: these are the ones rendering primary healthcare to our community residents who utilise our Nation’s 17 health centres. As such, it goes without saying that our national healthcare infrastructure would collapse without strong, consistent support from our nurses who practice in both the public and private sectors.
Even as we celebrate International Nurses’ Day, our Government is fully aware of the major challenges that confront our people, and the nursing fraternity. For us in St. Kitts and Nevis, our most formidable health challenge is that of the prevention and management of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases such as cancer, hypertension, heart disease, mental illness and diabetes. Together, CNCDs are responsible for some 83% of all deaths in our Federation. This is a statistic that must be lowered considerably if we are going to improve the standard and quality of life for our people, while safeguarding the positive trends we have been making in the area of longevity of our people, regardless of our status as a small island developing state (SID). There are a number of other challenges facing the nursing fraternity and the delivery of healthcare in our Country. It must be stated that most of these hurdles are not unique to St. Kitts and Nevis but appear to be a growing global trend.
- Declining numbers of persons pursuing careers in nursing;
- Shortage of specialist nurses with high-demand skill sets for disciplines such as oncology, haemodialysis, and management of accident and emergency, surgical theatre, and intensive care units;
- Increasing reliance on the recruitment of foreign nurses to fill key nursing specialties;
- Ageing global population and enhanced life expectancy which heighten the demand for nurses qualified in areas such as geriatric care and gerontology;
- Ever-increasing recruitment of better qualified nurses from developing countries by their first world counterparts who find it difficult to hire adequate numbers of nurses from within their own domestic populations;
- Difficulty in shattering the gender stereotype that nurses should be females and therefore male entrants into college/university nursing programmes are greatly outnumbered by their female classmates;
- Changing attitudes and approaches to careers in nursing: there is a definite shift away from nursing as a vocation and a calling to nursing being seen as just a job; and
- Low pass rates for the Regional Examination for Nurse Registration that is administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
It should be noted that most of these challenges would have been documented and discussed at the recently concluded meetings of CARICOM’s Regional Nursing Body (RNB) that were convened in St. Kitts and Nevis from March 5th to 7th, 20191. It should also be emphasized that our Government is fully committed to working with all stakeholders – be they local, regional or international – in an effort to finding lasting solutions meant to correct the adverse trends that have been developing in the global nursing industry and which can, in the process, render it difficult to deliver to our people the top quality nursing care they deserve to receive on a consistent basis.
In closing, I congratulate all of our nurses on the occasion of International Nurses’ Day 2019. We honour and applaud you for your service to our people. We thank you for your dedication to nursing as a career and trust that your service to the nursing profession will be seen as a beacon and shining example to others who are considering a career in nursing.
Happy International Nurses’ Day 2019, and Happy Mothers’ Day to all of our mothers in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis! May God bless the people of St. Kitts and Nevis with good health and wellness.
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