International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every year on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The theme for 2023 is Our Nurses. Our Future. Hospice Awareness Week in Aotearoa New Zealand is from 15–21 May 2023.
Dr Mark Jones, President and Chair Nurses, Christian Fellowship New Zealand
Whilst the contribution of other nurse leaders was significant to the development of the profession here in Aotearoa New Zealand, most nurses acknowledge Florence Nightingale as a having an influence on nursing in our country and worldwide. We all know most of Florence’s story but the key thing her writings tell is that on February 1837, at 17 years old, she heard God’s voice calling her into ‘service’, eventually leading her into nursing. Our profession has never been the same since.
As we come to celebrate International Nurses Day on Florence’s birthday, May 12, Nurses Christian Federation New Zealand (NCFNZ) remembers God’s call to relaunch the organisation on that very day back in 2015, and recall some of our history. On Anzac Day just gone we acknowledge nurses facing challenges of conflict abroad and in making their contribution to the development of the country, including our profession. They stood on their commitment to Christ in doing so. Part of this commitment was to carry on Nightingale’s Christian mission by establishing in 1924 a national organisation to support Christian nurses in their work – the Nurses Christian Union (NCU). Director of the Division of Nursing at the Department of Health (similar to our modern-day Chief Nurse at the Ministry) Jessie Bicknell was the first patron of NCU and a committed advocate of Christianity as the foundation of our practice.
Eventually the ‘Union’ became the ‘Fellowship’ to effectively link with similar organisations worldwide as part of Nurses Christian Fellowship International. In time just about every hospital in New Zealand had a branch of NCF with meetings packed out on a regular basis. Every organisation has its season though and in the late 90s the profile of NCF became less obvious. In 2015, 90 years since nurse leaders of Aotearoa acknowledged their faith as underpinning a commitment to caring, NCFNZ once again proclaimed the centrality of God to the work of our profession.
In times of high work pressure, challenges to delivering quality care outcomes, and of course earning sufficiently to keep going with a struggling economy, we could be forgiven for wondering whether a call to care such as Florence’s still has validity. However, if any profession can be seen to represent the attributes of selflessness and caring for our neighbour as instructed by Christ, it would have to be nursing. Of course not all nurses are Christians, but thousands are. NCFNZ is growing in strength once more and we offer Christian nurses a place where they can gain support and encouragement sharing their commitment with others and drawing upon each other’s strengths whilst being open and honest about any perceived weakness they may feel working in our health care system today. And for those nurses who are not Christians we are so keen to help them on a journey to find out how and why our faith can be foundational to their practice.
Nursing can be a fun, dynamic, rewarding and exciting, but often wearisome, challenging and absolutely exhausting. Strength does come in numbers though and if you are a nurse or know a nurse who wants to understand more how their profession and faith can intertwine with amazing results, then you know where to look: www.NCFNZ.org.nz