The World Health Organization designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife in recognition of the vital roles of these professions to global health. Coronavirus (COVID-19) means that these roles are more vital than ever and being delivered in the most challenging circumstances, and we should be really proud of our professions as they continue to provide high quality care. I know I am both proud and very grateful.
As always, the contribution from our nursing and midwifery family touches all ages and settings – from care for the sickest patients and those in working health protection, to those supporting people with their own and their family’s physical and mental wellbeing. Midwives and nurses are providing high quality care in new and adaptive ways and with the highest professionalism. This blog, and others which will follow, aim to make this vital work more visible and to share fabulous examples of high quality practice.
We are all striving to protect children, adults, families and communities during the outbreak of COVID-19. As a public health nurse, I am very clear that this means both protecting people from the virus itself, and supporting people to deal with the impacts of the necessary public health measures taken by the Government.
Every day, specialist health protection nurses use their knowledge and skills to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as continuing their usual work on public health advice and support on other infectious diseases in a whole range of settings.
The prevention of other disease outbreaks remains a critical public health intervention. Primary care and public health nurses are central to ensuring that the childhood immunisation programme continues through direct provision of immunisation services and by delivering important messages and advice to parents.
Meanwhile, babies are still being born, new parents still need support, and young people need mental health help and advice – now more than ever. Life goes on in lockdown, and the work of midwives, health visitors and school nurses is as vital as ever for these children, families and young people.
The health visitors and the school nurses in our communities can provide consistency at this time of radical change and uncertainty. They are the trusted clinicians, who can deliver and reinforce the critical public health messages that will help to slow the pandemic. They are the reliable source of information and professionals to whom families can turn, and they are finding new and innovative ways to offer their services virtually.
The consequences of COVID-19 has brought additional pressures on households. For some families staying indoors means difficulties already experienced are increased, and so are risks within the home. Midwives, health visitors, family nurses and school nurses are on the front line, supporting those children and families who need the most help, working alongside colleagues in social care and other public services where multi-agency interventions and safeguarding are needed.
And again, as a public health nurse I truly value prevention – it is at the heart of all public health nursing and will be as important as ever, if not more so, in these coming months. COVID-19 will take up many more column inches than any other news story. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, public health nurses and midwives will be working hard to make sure children, young people, families and adults get the guidance, advice, timely support and interventions they need to help them live long, healthy lives far into the future.
I have never been prouder of the work we are doing, coming together in new ways to support individuals, families and communities in these unsettling times. International Midwives Day (5 May) and International Nurses Day (12 May) will provide an opportunity to express our gratitude and take pride globally in our professions making a difference through the pandemic and into the future.
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Contributor: Viv Bennett