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‘Nurses are the heart and the backbone of health’ – Chief Nursing Officer Lizett Bell on International Nurses Day

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Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022. 1:19 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Today, May 12, is celebrated as International Nurses Day around the globe. The day commemorates the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

The 2022 theme is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health.

“Today, we take pride in wishing all nurses a Happy International Nurses’ Day,” said the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Nurses are the heart and the backbone of health,” said Chief Nursing Officer Lizett Bell in her address to Belize’s nurses whom she referred to as superheroes for their work, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nurses are superheroes, and we see you glow every day. We are there for you and we acknowledge your efforts but special thanks to you for your services to your communities on this your Nurses’ Day. Happy International Nurses Day.”

Bell paid tribute to the nurses of Belize for their tireless work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must recognize the nurses’ efforts and their heroic commitment to the people of this country. Many were tired, overworked, underpaid, and managing their own personal issues, yet they showed up to work to provide care for those in need. Nurses are the heart and the backbone of health,” she said.

“They responded to the unknown when many shied away with fears. They advocated for patients’ needs and rights and they formed support bonds with families and communities. They displayed their leadership and management expertise to coordinate and reorganize the services to ensure that essential services were maintained.”

Bell pointed out that the nurses of Belize championed the COVID-19 vaccination campaign while taking care of the patients affected with the disease, and running the screening, testing, and surveillance of outpatients. They did all that while still carrying out their regular duties caring for persons with MCDS, mental health, and maternal and child health.

“Nurses are flexible but must be respected for their competency and contribution to the success of health care,” she said.

Bell said nurses will continue playing a key role in the improvement of health services but that cannot happen without investment in the health sector particularly since there is a scarcity of nurses.

“Investing in nursing has become critical to the productivity of any health care system and to the wider sustainable economic development of a country. [The] COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that nurses play a significant role in healthcare and without them, accessibility to quality care can be jeopardized.

“If we are to retain the qualified nursing cadre required to provide a more robust, safer, and straightened health system, investment in nursing is imperative,” she said.

At the same time, she acknowledged the recent moves by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to improve the health sector.

“For the fiscal year 2021-22, the Ministry of Health and Wellness invested in nursing education through scholarship opportunities at the bachelor’s degree level and certificate in practical nursing, also in specializations of midwifery and operating room nursing,” said the Chief Nursing Officer.

“Not only focusing on nursing education but also on nursing practice due to the shortage of nurses, 74 new posts for nurses were created and approved. Also, a second cohort of midwifery [is] to commence this year and a program in public health nursing and infection control and prevention.”

However, she sounded a reminder that much more still needs to be done to create safer working environments and improve compensation and benefits for nurses.

“We must continue to use innovations and technology and optimize adequate resource allocation to guarantee that the health care system can be resilient to any shocks. The threat of climate change and its effect on health is real,” Bell said.

She said that we must remain alert for the possibility of future pandemics.

“We must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and treasure the lessons learned and make appropriate policy changes to close the gaps that can increase our vulnerability. The time is now for action and mitigation efforts to create sustainable health systems and protect the health and wellbeing of communities,” she said in closing while thanking the nurses for their commitment and wishing them a Happy International Nurses Day.

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