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The importance of nursing leadership and nursing’s response to COVID-19 are two dynamics reflected in the theme for International Nurses Day 2021 (IND2021). The main theme for IND2021, announced by the International Council of Nurses (ICN), is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead.” The sub-theme is “A Vision for Future Healthcare.”

International Nurses Day is celebrated worldwide on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. ICN celebrates the day by choosing a theme and producing resources.

The main theme of “A Voice to Lead” has been used for the past few years, notes Howard Catton, RN, ICN Chief Executive Officer, based in Geneva, Switzerland. “Clearly it speaks to the importance of nursing leadership, and the issues and problems around the world that we know that we’ve had with nursing voices not being heard or included at the high tables for health systems and policy decision-making,” Catton says.

The national nurse associations that make up the ICN felt the theme was strong and “resonated, reflected, and aligned with the work that very many of them are doing in their countries,” he says. The theme also connects with the “State of the World’s Nursing 2020,” a report developed by the World Health Organization in partnership with ICN and the Nursing Now campaign.

“A Vision for Future Healthcare”

The sub-theme of “A Vision for Future Healthcare” relates to nursing leadership coming to the fore in many countries during the pandemic, notes Catton. “I think the world is seeing the value of nursing in a way that perhaps it hasn’t before because of the response to the pandemic.”

Catton stresses that the central role played by nursing in the pandemic needs to be maintained in the design of future health systems, as well as discussions on policy and decision making. “Models of care could be much more nurse-led,” he notes. The “hand of the nurse,” he says, should be “on the architect’s pen, drawing, designing the future.” The nursing response to COVID-19 “means that we legitimately own a seat” at the table for health systems policy and decision making.

Nurses, Catton says, not only save lives during the pandemic, but also save and support families and communities. “They are changing the world in terms of what they’re doing in their daily practice.”

The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations worldwide. For IND2021, nurses can share their stories in the form of a 1,000-word case study to be a part of the event. Guidelines and templates on how to submit a case study can be found here

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