An ending and a beginning

As International Nurses’ Day 2021 approaches, so does the end of the Nursing Now campaign. Our last event will be at the end of May and we will celebrate all that nurses around the world have achieved during the campaign. As the Executive Director my emotions are mixed. I am proud to be involved in telling the story of the campaign – not one story, but many stories, from over 120 countries and 700 groups, and over 30,000 young nurses who have signed up through their employers for the Nightingale Challenge.  All of these stories will mark an ending, which is a sad moment – but they are not the end in any way; they point the way to a different story of nursing – and that gives me hope for a different future.

Facing a new reality

The signals that the world faces a new reality in its health care landscape have been there for some time. Health care demands are changing. Non-communicable diseases are rising everywhere, with people needing care for life; there is a call for universal health coverage – health care for everyone, everywhere; and people want care at home, not in hospital, until the end of their lives.  We face all of these health goals against the rising costs of health care.

Nurses work with patients throughout the span of their lives, helping them manage diseases and live healthy lives for as long as possible, and are present in hospitals, in the community, in schools, primary care settings and in people’s homes. And nurses work in innovative ways to help people flourish within their communities, to live life to the fullest extent possible1.

While new challenges are emerging, technology is enhancing both the way we educate health professionals and the way those professionals then reach patients. The new opportunities for global connectivity for nurses and midwives mean that information sharing is possible on a massive scale. There is a huge potential for nurses to be connected, to learn together and share evidence and to lobby together for change in every country in a coordinated way. Nursing Now has shown that this is possible and that there is a will for this to happen. The future is truly not like the past.

Moving beyond the pandemic

Battling Covid-19 has taken all of our energies in 2020. As we look to the future we need to take account of how we all recover from the pandemic. We have been through this pandemic together, for some working in situations that have been stressful beyond our wildest imaginings: Nursing Now has heard some of the gruelling stories. We all of us have felt the ways that stress affects our bodies and our minds. Enduring 2020 has helped us appreciate having someone to take the time to sit with us and look beyond what we feel comfortable saying to what we really want to talk about.

Every nurse will be able to tell the story of the value of deep listening and the relationship between nurse and patient as therapy in itself. Although kindness is known to improve outcomes for patients2 it is hard to measure, but without it, it will be harder for us all to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Showing the difference we make

Our challenge as nurses is to continue to show what a difference our person centred and compassionate practice can make to health outcomes.  Then we need to get this into language that policy makers, managers and budget holders will understand. That requires data as well as powerful stories that will be remembered when it is time to allocate budgets to nursing time.

This is the stage for the future where nurses must become the stars of their own show – no longer the supporting cast as we have so often been. Nurses are critical to the future of health care. We are so ready for the spotlight.


Crisp N., Health is made at home. Hospitals are for repairs. Salus, Billericay, UK 2020

2Klaber  R., Bailey S., Kindness: an underrated currency. BMJ 2019;367:l6099 doi: 10.1136/bmj.l6099

*Header image copyright: Bruno Lavi - IND2021 photo contest winner

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Barbara Stilwell

Executive Director, Nursing Now

Read the chapter from Advanced Practice Nursing Leadership: A Global Perspective