Nurses, the “core of Covid-19 response”

We have seen them on the front line, constantly at work, regardless of their condition of stress or fatigue. We have seen their faces marked by the constant use of personal protective equipment, and their eyes reddened by glasses and protective screens. We have seen them collapsed from exhaustion on computer keyboards while still wearing Tyvek suits, hats, and nitrile gloves.

The constantly evolving image and professional perception of nurses has undergone a further change during this pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, who had already defined these professionals as “the backbone of the health system”, on the occasion of the International Nurses Day 2021, wrote on Twitter: “nurses have been the fulcrum of the response to Covid19, providing life-saving care, and in many heartbreaking cases, witnessing the last moments of people’s life. To nurses from all over the world: thank you for your tireless commitment”.

There are 450 thousand nurses in Italy that were celebrated by politics and institutions last May the 12th, on the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nothingale, the founder of modern nursing sciences.

Seen as heroes, but sometimes also perceived as smearers, more than a year after the beginning of the COVID emergency, almost one out of three coronavirus infections is registered among healthcare professionals.

A “thank you to our nurses for their courage, passion and altruism, with which they are defending the nation” comes from the President of the Senate Elisabetta Casellati. This is echoed by the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, who hopes for the construction of “a better National Health Service” centered on the “figure of the nurse, namely, the professionals who take care of people every day”.

Antonio De Palma, president of the Nursing Up union, recalls how “over 100 thousand nurses have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic, and among them 83 thousand have not made it” facing “an enemy we could and should have fought against with very different weapons “.

For De Palma this profession “must be considered as the pivot of a renewal of health care that must start from the reinforcement of territorial health care”.

FNOPI, the national federation of the orders of the nursing professions, on the other hand, denounces the lack in Italy of about 60 thousand professionals and in the occasion of the congress  launches a spiel to asks the government to take action in order to exceed the lack of staff.

In this regard, the vice-president of the Social Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Michela Rostan, explains that in Italy “we have 5.8 nurses for every thousand inhabitants. The average of the OECD countries is 8.8 ”.

This shortage of staff is caused by a number of reasons: the block of turnover, the exclusivity obligation, and by the raise of new professional opportunities – such as the figure of the family nurse – which is now standing up, with many difficulties, mostly in the regions.

According to the president of FNOPI Barbara Mangiacavalli, “obsolete models of inter-professional relations” should be abandoned, as well as “the contractual and economic inequalities that characterize health professions today”.

For the secretary of Nursind, Andrea Bottega, it is urgent to “protect and enhance this category”, which would be “the only way to design the healthcare of tomorrow”.

An ideal professional future should be redesigned not only by eliminating the distinctions between the roles of doctors and nurses, identifying both figures at the same level as they contribute to a different title to the protection of patients’ health, but also by restoring due dignity to the entire category.