SUVA, Fiji (July 30) - The country’s health services are in a total chaos as we enter the sixth day of the nurses’ strike. It has been a difficult week for the sick as health centers around the country closed their doors while those at the urban centers are operating with minimal staff.

The strike is now taking its toll on the health workers who are at work. And this could mean more misery to the people and a possible increase in the number of deaths.

What is more annoying is the reluctance of the nurses’ union to accept the proposal given by the interim administration. We already have a very weak economy and it would have been ideal for the nurses to accept the 1 percent pay restoration and make government enter into a commitment of restoring their 5 percent pay cut as soon as the economy improves. This would have been a much better way.

We do sympathies with the nurses but to fight for something that is impossible and to hold the nation at ransom is an act of injustice to the profession. Nursing founder Florence Nightingale saw the profession as a calling from God. Courage and compassion are probably the two most important core values, which epitomize nursing.

Nightingale demonstrated courage when she rebelled against her family who were strongly opposed to her pursuit of a nursing career. She resolutely stood her ground and took the initiative to study nursing on her own.

During the war, Nightingale risked her life by going into a war zone and exposing herself to disease on a mass scale but her focus was always on her patients.

According to UK Ministry of Defence nursing adviser Captain Wendy Williams, Nightingale’s next battle was to overcome opposition from the army surgeons who initially resisted her interference. Undiminished, she courageously transformed the care and conditions at the military hospital; so much so that the mortality rate fell from 60 percent to 2 percent in just six months.

This was achieved by providing the basic tenants of nursing care; improving the standards of sanitation, clean linen, wholesome food and providing compassionate care by trained nurses. There are many human stories of exceptional nurses whose courage came to the fore when working in great danger.

Nurses like Sister Barbara Maunsell in Burma who volunteered to work with a field ambulance right on the demarcation line. Despite constant bombardment by mortars and machine gun fire, Sister Maunsell tended to the wounded. She knew if she were caught by the advancing Japanese troops she could face horrific treatment.

Those selfless acts were repeated numerous times over with many nurses sadly, paying the ultimate price by losing their lives. Acts of courage and compassion are not limited to the battlefield. They are repeated every day by the many unsung heroes throughout the nursing profession. Now, more than ever, nurses need to be courageous to recognize and articulate the value of quality.We may have moved forward in advancing nursing practice over the last 150 years, but it does no harm to reflect on Nightingale’s core values and beliefs and re-dedicate to those defining principles.

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