Comment: Finally give more recognition to nursing!

It’s not just about respect and better pay. In the Corona crisis, a look at the history book shows how the grievances in care can be overcome.

Florence Nightingale was a legend even in her lifetime. The British woman, who owes her name, which sounds like something out of a novel, to her native city of Florence, is still not only considered the founder of modern nursing. She also continued to set valid standards in the fight against infection, the development of health statistics, hygiene rules and the establishment of a public health system. Nightingale’s birthday is annually called “International Day of the maintenanceIt is a remarkable irony in medical history that the pioneer’s 200th birthday falls right in the middle of the global corona pandemic and makes us think.

Nursing needs more recognition: those who care for the sick also take risks themselves

In the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about more social recognition, better pay or better protective equipment for nurses than lessons from the crisis. Nightingale was already infected during her famous work at the British military hospital in Istanbul during the Crimean War in tending to English soldiers with an illness from which she suffered all of her life. Dozens of her colleagues died while saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

Read now: Today's edition of your daily newspaper as an e-paper.
Read now: Today’s edition of your daily newspaper as an e-paper.

Countless infected nurses and doctors have also died in the corona pandemic in the past few weeks. In Italy There are 162 names of deceased doctors on the official Corona list. Great Britain honored its hundred doctors and nurses who died in the epidemic with a public minute of silence.

In Germany, however, the cases disappear in the statistics – if they are recorded at all. The RKI records over 50 deaths in the health care or care facilities with a corona infection, but corresponding figures are missing from a third of the federal states.


The fact that there is no register of occupational diseases in the health care system in the highly developed Federal Republic of Germany can also be seen under the lack of recognition for the care professions. For decades, however, the greatest evil has been the poor pay: As the colloquial professional name nurse suggests, as in the times of Nightingale, the image of the Christian religious sister who sacrifices herself out of charity as an unofficial job description prevails: especially socially motivated women allow themselves to be exploited underpaid.

Get out of the cliché of the selfless nurse – nursing training has to be organized differently

Countless health reforms have not changed this, but have usually made the situation worse. The economicization of the hospital system with its case-based lump-sum system, which is geared towards income, has even increased the pressure on care with increasing work while at the same time reducing personnel.

Florence Nightingale wanted to get away from the sister cliché. It is her great merit that she professionalized nursing with a training system against the resistance of politicians and doctors at the dawn of the modern medical age. Their system still grants greater recognition to care in the Anglo-Saxon area than here.

Therefore, German health policy should learn a lasting lesson from the Corona crisis and 110 years after Nightingale’s death, finally implement the goal of “care at eye level” with medicine. In Scandinavian countries, nursing training is equivalent to a university degree with corresponding salary levels. It is not only the nurses who benefit from this, but most of all the patients through a more humane hospital.

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