I checked in case it was just me, being nursing-centric, who had missed the fact we annually celebrate medicine and the work of doctors. But no, it wasn't just me. I did find that President George Bush had proclaimed March 30th National Doctors' Day in 1991 in the USA. But it doesn't seem to have caught on, and I could only find the odd reference to it here and there.
Why is that? Perhaps it's because we don't value doctors as much as we do nurses, so see no need to celebrate the work of medics. It is true that nurses are the most trusted profession, ranking top in polls year after year.
And the evidence that nursing care has an impact is substantial. My own research shows that having sufficient levels of fully trained registered nurses (RNs) on duty makes a difference to the chances that the care patients need is delivered. And that, after undergoing surgery, if patients have received their care on wards where RNs report they are frequently unable to deliver all the care needed, they are at higher risk of dying whilst in hospital. Clearly nursing care is important. Not just to patients' experience of care, but to their clinical outcomes. And the provision of care by sufficient numbers of registered nurses is key to ensuring that the 'hospital shall do the sick no harm'.
So perhaps that is why we choose to honour the founders of nursing, and on the 12 May, the day Florence Nightingale was born, hold an International Nurses Day (IND). To celebrate the achievements of nursing past and present. It seems that all around the world, people agree that nursing is worth waving a flag about and putting up the bunting for.
But why then don't we do the same for doctors?
Worldwide, and across political parties, people seem to view nursing as an inherently 'good' thing and readily say "...and the nurses were fabulous" after a brush with healthcare. But despite the affection for nurses, particularly for the traditional image of frilly caps and formidable matrons, the delivery of nursing itself is not valued. If it was, why would we ever doubt that having nursing delivered by degree-educated professionals is a good thing? Why would we, as nurses, feel permanently on the back foot, having to justify that better educated staff is a good thing? It took a blog from a doctor to point out the madness of it: "Nursing seems to be the only profession where people argue that too much education is the cause of problems".
So, whether you are a nurse, a doctor, a manager, or anyone else: please join us in celebrating IND. But don't just celebrate it today, and go back to accepting the status quo tomorrow; to the 'real world' where it's a necessary compromise to reduce the amount of care patients receive from fully educated, registered nurses. Where 'any pair of hands' will do. Where, so long as nursing staff have kind hearts and capable hands, specialist knowledge about your body, your treatment, your care, your drugs, is not seen as intrinsic to nursing. To a view that says "we can't afford to have the number of RNs we need". Trust me, I'm a nurse - you can't afford not to.
Nursing needs to be valued for life, not just one day.
Happy International Nurses Day.