International Nurses Day

12th May 2015


Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [7.05 p.m.], by leave: It is my pleasure to contribute to this discussion of the matter of public importance and to mark International Nurses Day, which is celebrated annually around the world on 12 May, which is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. I recognise the member for Cootamundra for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. Some of the best people I know are nurses. That might not be surprising since it was my profession. I spent some 25 years in nursing. It is where I met my wife, who is currently a nurse. Many of my friends are also nurses, and I understand their commitment and dedication to their careers.

Nurses are there for us from the cradle to the grave. They are often the professionals at the bedside who help to ease our passage into the world. More often than not, they will also be the ones at our bedside at the end, providing not only care but also comfort—holding our hand, physically as well as metaphorically, as we inch towards our final breath. I did that on several occasions when I was a nurse. Nurses work by adherence to an egalitarian and professional code: No task is too demeaning and none is too difficult. If a job needs to be done, then a nurse is the person to do it.

Nurses are in our hospitals, our doctors' surgeries and clinics, our aged care homes, residential care facilities and hospices. They are in the community assisting those with disabilities and special needs, and they take important healthcare education to the front line. Some work on battlefields, in refugee camps, or in other areas of crisis and conflict. In this centenary year of Anzac, it is appropriate to note the strong contribution of nurses during wartime. More than 2,500 Australian nurses served during World War I—most of them overseas. Approximately 3,500 nurses served during World War II. Nurses also served in Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf conflicts and other theatres of war. Nurses were there at the ready on the day of the Gallipoli landing, attending to hundreds of injured men from the decks of the hospital ship Gascon, which was moored off Anzac Cove. Sister Ella Tucker, who was on duty, later recalled working from 9.00 a.m. to 2.00 a.m. the following day, caring for the 76 patients in her makeshift ward.

Today nurses throughout New South Wales have been marking International Nurses Day in a variety of ways—with morning teas, barbecues and the like—but they have also used the day to highlight issues that they regard as critical to their ability to perform their duties effectively, such as the need for appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios, the protection of universal health care, the importance of registered nurses in aged care and guaranteed minimum midwifery staffing for all maternity services throughout the State. A strong and suitably resourced nursing workforce is essential for the smooth and cost-effective running of our health institutions.

It is no coincidence that nurses frequently top surveys of the most trusted professionals. Of course, politicians would love to have that type of approval rating. We will not get a much better indication of the value of a profession than the type of rating nurses achieve, with a staggering 92 per cent of Australians aged between 14 and over rating nursing as the most ethical profession. I take this opportunity to wish the 43,000 nurses across our State a happy International Nurses Day. I thank the member for Cootamundra for bringing this matter of public importance to the attention of the House.

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