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International Nurses Day: praise us as professionals not heroes, says chief nurse

Nurse leaders celebrate the profession under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic


England's chief nursing officer Ruth May speaking at St Thomas' Hospital on International Nurses Day. Picture: PA

Nurses are not heroes, but expert professionals, England's chief nursing officer Ruth May has said during a ceremony marking International Nurses Day on 12 May.

Laud us as professionals not heroes, says England's chief nurse

Speaking at St Thomas' Hospital in London, where Florence Nightingale established her nursing school 160 years ago, Ms May said that while support from the public was welcome during the COVID-19 crisis, some misconceptions remained.

‘No, we're not heroes,' she said.

'We are expert professionals who are doing our jobs and providing skilled, compassionate care, and nurses and midwives across England should be very proud of themselves right now.’ 


Mike Adams

PPE failures have been 'dispiriting', says RCN director for England

RCN director for England Mike Adams also referred to public support for healthcare workers, saying it has been a boost during ‘dispiriting’ problems with personal protective equipment (PPE).

He said there was no way nurses cannot be disappointed with how the government has managed PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘There are still concerns about PPE and access to equipment across all our settings – not just in hospitals, but in care homes, hospices, community district nurse settings and mental health teams.'

His comments follow criticism the government has faced over the supply of PPE during the pandemic.

Government should consider the impact of its decisions on nurses

Mr Adams said he recognised that changes have been made to try and improve the situation over the past three weeks, but said that that there is equipment being delivered that is not fit for purpose.

He added that there should have been pandemic planning in place, including a stockpile of PPE for when it was needed.

When asked what the government could now do for nurses in the pandemic, Mr Adams said it should consider the impact of decisions it made on nurses, from easing lockdown and PPE access to future pay arrangements.

Pandemic will inspire people to pursue nursing as a career, says NHS England chief

In a nod to International Nurses Day, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens thanked nurses for all they had done during the global pandemic and said the legacy of COVID-19 should be that more people were inspired to enter the profession.


Simon Stevens

‘This is an opportunity not just to thank our current nurses but also to invite bright and brilliant and committed people across the country to consider nursing as a career,' he said. 

NHS England has said there has been a 224% rise in people expressing an interest in becoming a nurse on the NHS Health Careers website.

According to Health Education England, between 16 March and 15 April 2020, 74,475 people clicked on the nursing pages of the website, up from 23,018 in the same period last year.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair welcomed the news of increased interest in nursing.

‘We hope the next generation will see the professionalism exhibited by nursing staff during this crisis and want to join us,’ she said.

But Professor Kinnair also highlighted the 40,000 nursing vacancies in England before the pandemic as evidence that more support was needed for  those wishing to study nursing.

‘That is why we are calling for full tuition fee support and maintenance grants which cover the true cost of living for all nursing students in England for those studying now and in the future,’ she said.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for a response to Mr Adams' concerns. 

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