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Why nurses are the unsung heroes of global health

From Huffington Post:

“We are in the midst of celebrating International Nurses Week, which culminates on May 12 with the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Although our founding mother of modern nursing would be impressed with the health technology of today, I am sure she would be sorely disappointed by the ongoing invisibility of nurses, which she fought so hard to overcome during her lifetime.

Everyone knows someone who is a nurse. In addition to health clinics and hospitals, we work in your children’s schools, at your workplace, in all branches of military service and in your places of worship. There are more than 3 million registered nurses in the United States alone. But the vast majority of nurses — over 32 million of them — work in other parts of the world.

It is in poor countries and communities, where health needs are greatest and physicians are scarce, that nurses take an even greater role in healthcare delivery, often serving as the sole providers in rural villages or urban slums. For a mother in labor in the mountains of Lesotho in southern Africa or for a child suffering from cholera in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, access to qualified midwives and nurses often means the difference between life and death. We work with patients at every stage in their lives, from birth to death. We deliver babies safely with few if any resources; and we are often the people who are there to make sure that an individual can die in the most dignified and pain free way possible. We know what our patients and communities need.

But although nurses deliver 90 percent of all healthcare services worldwide, they remain largely invisible at decision-making tables in national capitals and international agencies. Their absence constitutes a global health crisis…”

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