Published On: 26 October 2021

On the 12th May 2021, International Nurses’ Day was celebrated and commemorated after a year marked by unknowns, fears, and heavy workloads for most nurses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, nurses across the world have faced these challenges and shown innovation and selfless care to millions of patients at health care facilities and at home. The theme of the campaign was “A Voice to Lead – A vision for future healthcare” and aimed to highlight the important role that nurses play in keeping people healthy, how nurses are innovating healthcare and to explore what nursing may look like in the future.

In honour of International Nurses’ Day, THINK project teams, including nurses from the USAID TB LON-SAFT Programme reflected on the last year and shared their stories. The project’s district manager for uMkhanyakude,  Ms. Sinenhlahla Memela, said: “Nursing is the most rewarding vocation,  even during a pandemic nurse continue to make a difference by caring for and educating communities”. She passionately advocated for proper infection prevention and integrated care to minimize the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and TB. Nurse Velile Vilakazi from the eThekwini team noted that working during the pandemic taught her to always put her patients first before her own fears or concerns. “As unsettling as it was, as nurses we learnt to be more encouraging, comforting and reassuring even in the toughest times.”

Dr Jocelyn Jansen Van Vuuren thanked the THINK nurses for staying dedicated to their patients before, during and after the pandemic; tracking and tracing various members of different communities to take their sputum, bloods or histories and providing them with treatment, ensuring their recovery was not  compromised. She commended their dedication by saying: “You are directly responsible for their good outcomes! May it always be enough for you even if no one says thank you.”

Nurse Odette van Amsterdam, a TB research nurse noted: “Life as we knew it had changed from us wearing masks at work only, (because we work with MDR-TB patients) to wearing masks everywhere we go.” She expressed  that by maintaining strict precautionary measures none of the THINK nurses became infected with COVID-19 while visiting patients at home during lockdown.

Nurse Siyabonga Myeza commemorated the many nurses who lost their lives due to COVID-19 saying: “When everyone locked themselves inside their houses,  nurses woke-up early in the morning to help those who needed help to breathe, who needed help to bathe themselves, who needed help to take their medication.” He continued by saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the role of nursing in healthcare systems globally but more particular in Africa. During the pandemic nurses affirmed their position of being the backbone of the healthcare system. As nurses we became foot soldiers and lead from the front against an invisible enemy attacking our communities. Nursing will never be the same.”