In recognition of this special day, we wanted to learn about the personal experience as a nurse and how we can all show our support.
International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world each year on 12th May – Florence Nightingale’s birthday. While nurses always deserve to be celebrated and recognized, there are a few reasons this year is particularly significant. First, 12th May 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The year 2020 has also been designated ‘The Year of the Nurse and Midwife’ by the World Health Organization in response to the critical contribution nurses and midwives make to global health. We of course also acknowledge the recent tireless efforts of our nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recognition of the day, we spoke to Michael König, a nurse and hospital hygiene specialist from Austria, about his personal experience as a nurse, life on the frontlines of COVID-19 and how we can all show our support.
How are you marking International Nurses Day this year?
I’ll be at work, so the same as a normal day! However, my wife is also a nurse, so we’ll make sure we have a celebratory drink at dinner. We both love what we do and are proud of the work we do each day – so it’s nice to stop every now and then and toast to that.
What made you decide to become a nurse?
I have what I would describe as a ‘helping syndrome’ – I’ve always had a strong desire to help people and save lives. I knew I could never do a job where it wouldn’t make a difference if I came to work or not. I wanted to do something where I felt like I was delivering value and making a real impact.
I initially decided to become a neuroscience nurse because I liked the idea of seeing someone’s health improve quickly – usually within three weeks following a stroke. While I enjoy working with people one-on-one, I also liked the idea of being able to reach more people by working with larger teams. In my current role, I now help facilitate knowledge sharing on a global level by educating people about current best practices in disinfection.
Can you tell us a little more about your work in disinfection?
Ultimately, I’m responsible for improving hygiene in our hospital – working with doctors, nurses and other hospital staff to ensure disinfection rules are put into practice. We introduced Sterillium MED into our hospital 2,5 years ago and were able to record an improvement in hand hygiene among our more than 2,300 employees due to the high acceptance of the brand and product benefits.
I also work with other hospitals around the world to help ensure we’re sharing the latest standards and research on disinfection and hygiene. That’s something I feel is somewhat missing from our response to the COVID-19 crisis. Global connection is the key to success and it’s so important that we see countries exchanging learnings, ideas and experiences to improve ways of working and treatment around the world.
What do you like most about your work?
I like having the opportunity to work in a multi-disciplinary team. It’s deeply rewarding when the team can work together to determine what is wrong with someone and then help them get healthy again and leave hospital. I also enjoy the spontaneous nature of the work and that no day is the same as the one before it – it’s certainly never boring. In my current role, I also enjoy being able to dive into new situations and build scientific knowledge and experience to share with teams.
How are you looking after yourself and finding balance in the current pandemic?
I’m aware that in every situation I’m responsible for someone’s life, so I always need to be focused and alert. It’s rewarding, but it also puts us under a lot of pressure, so it’s important to find ways to switch off physically and mentally. For me, that means going for walks and being outside with my family, talking to my wife about things other than work and sometimes just taking 15 minutes of silence. Listening to 80s music helps as well! I also try to regularly talk to my kids to help them feel safe, as I know this is a stressful time for them as well.
What is one thing the general public can do to support nurses right now?
Nurses around the world face a whole range of issues, particularly when it comes to things like salary and shortages, and these sorts of things don’t change in a day. That said, one simple thing people can do to support nurses is to spread the word about the work we do. Many people don’t entirely understand the role of nurses, or sometimes take it for granted that they have access to hospital care, until something actually happens to them or a family member. So, sharing personal stories about how a nurse has helped you really highlights the important work we do. It’s always nice for us to receive a heartfelt thank you after we’ve helped someone – after all it’s why we do what we do.