By Nicola Handley, a specialist workplace disease solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

Florence Nightingale’s birthday of 12 May is celebrated worldwide as International Nurses' Day. The UK, United States, Taiwan and other countries celebrate the role that nurses play in today’s society on the birthday of whom many people recognise is the founder of modern day nursing.

The International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) campaign in 2022 will be “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health”. In the UK the Royal College of Nursing intends to share stories that demonstrate the “Best of Nursing”.

Whatever the theme, it's clear that the roles nurses play are vital for a society to function. Internationally, we've also seen how nurses have helped to ensure people receive care and support needed through COVID-19 and now in Ukraine.

The need for real investment in nursing

Nurses work incredibly hard to treat and care for people. In my role as a specialist mesothelioma solicitor, I frequently hear first-hand about the invaluable care and support my clients receive from nurses.

During the pandemic, my clients often told me how district nurses never failed to attend to them at home. Their lung cancer nurse specialist was always on hand to provide guidance, care and treatment.

That said, a recent report on cancer services in the UK highlighted that if gaps in the cancer clinical workforce were not filled, any efforts on survival rates could be harmed.

There is presently no detailed plan that addresses the shortages of specialist cancer nurses, and these staff shortages threaten both diagnosis and treatment. Without real investment by the government, cancer services will likely continue to be severely impacted. This may lead to more people dying from cancer who could have been treated.

It's also said that investment in protecting nurses’ rights, safety and wellbeing is needed, not just a financial investment.

The international nursing community

Historically, the NHS has always benefited from overseas recruitment with nurses coming from other countries to live and work in England. My mother (pictured) and her two sisters came to England from Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s, and all trained and worked as nurses in various roles and hospitals.

International recruitment continues to play an important part in supplying the UK nursing workforce. Forming close networks with other countries at address the need for nurse to collaborate and share best practices is invaluable at this time too.

Oncology nurse proud to be part of the nursing community

Rosemary Giles, an asbestos-related disease lawyer and a colleague of mine at Irwin Mitchell spoke to Lavinia Magee, a nurse consultant in thoracic oncology at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. 

Lavinia is a committee member of Lung Cancer Nursing UK (LCNUK), a dynamic and cohesive forum of lung cancer nurse specialists dedicated to caring for patients with lung cancer or mesothelioma. LCNUK helps nurses to build links and networks with each other to provide support in their challenging roles. She also represents LCNUK as a board member of Lung Cancer Europe (LuCE), which provides a European platform for lung cancer patients and their families. One of the key challenges recognised by LuCE is to ensure the equality of access to treatment and importantly care across Europe. Clearly, this requires real investment in the nursing workforce.

Lavinia kindly shared what makes her proud about being part of the international nursing community saying :“ It is an honour to be part of the international nursing community, developing and supporting each other. 

"Sharing our knowledge and utilising our skills are essential to guide and support our patients and their families when they are at their most vulnerable. Nursing welcomes diversity and change and can certainly provide challenges as well as rewards. Compassion, excellence and collaboration are our key values.”

Find out more about Nicola Handley's work in supporting people following a mesothelioma diagnosis at Irwin Mitchell's dedicated asbestos-related disease section