ICN Calls for More Than Applause to Celebrate International Nurses Day


This year’s International Nurses Day was always going to be a special one – occurring on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and in the first-ever International Year of the Nurse. However, it will also go down in history as the one falling in the middle of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

The day should be a call to action for the future as much as a celebration of the immense contribution and sacrifices by nurses across the world in caring for their patients and communities – every day and especially during the pandemic. The world should never again be as underprepared for a global disaster.

This was the message from the International Council for Nurses (ICN) in wishing nurses across the globe a happy International Nurses Day as they selflessly continue nursing the world to health.

What will COVID-19’s legacy be for the nursing profession?

Annette Kennedy, ICN President

“We will remember the nurses who have died,” said Annette Kennedy, President of the ICN in her message. “And the best way to honor their loss is to ensure that the legacy of 2020 is a stronger nursing workforce, with better access to vital equipment and pay and working conditions that reflect the high esteem that nurses are held in by the general public.”

The pandemic has highlighted the connection between people’s health, their wealth, and well-being as never before, and also the weaknesses of the health systems. This includes the fact that the world entered the pandemic with a shortfall of 6 million nurses, as well as the continuing shortage of personal protective equipment needed to ensure the safety of health care staff.


Roadmap for the future of nursing

Those who were nursed back to health will not forget what nurses did. Nor will the families of those for whom nurses were the last voice they heard and the last touch of a human hand. Around the world ordinary citizens have come out of their front doors, or onto their balconies, to applaud and thank nurses.

Howard Catton, ICN Chief Executive Officer, called on governments to take the lead from the public and show their appreciation for nurses by committing to investing in the profession. The State of the World’s Nursing report, which was released by the WHO on International Health Day on April 7, clearly shows what is required – investment in nursing education, jobs, and leadership.

“We now have the roadmap that we must show to politicians and policymakers and say here is a better way, this is what must be done, and nursing is the solution,” emphasized Catton. “And if the politicians say they can’t afford it as economies around the world falter, we say to them, for the sake of the people you serve, for their lives, their economic security, and their freedom even to walk in the park, you must invest in nursing.”

Nurses together – A voice to lead

The central role of nurses in the provision of health services could not have been demonstrated more effectively during the 2020 Year of the Nurse than by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catton called on nurses to look and see at how they had already changed the world. “Now is the time that we also rise for ourselves,” said Catton. “Twenty-eight million voices to lead – for Florence and for nursing, or my family and for your family, for the health of people everywhere, let us rise as we nurse the world to health.”


Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.