Celebrating our Medical Workers & Volunteers

International Nurses Day is observed annually on May 12 to raise awareness of the critical contribution of nurses to efforts to prevent disease and care for and cure those who are ill, reflecting on the vital work they carry out every day.

As the year 2020 is struggling to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization has designated this year as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife to give credit to the courageous work health-care workers are performing in the face of COVID-19 while potentially putting their own health and lives at risk. This day also marks the two-hundredth anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

Celebrating nursing day nationally

Nurses and health-care workers worldwide, including in Palestine, are in the spotlight these days, as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the irreplaceable work they perform under the most strenuous conditions. Furthermore, this situation is revealing that nurses’ expertise, advice, evidence, and direct contact with grassroots health-care should be given more prominence in policy-making, as their contribution is an essential part of the successful management of this outbreak – and potential others in the future.

Birzeit University's fourth-year students have set up volunteer groups and received training by the Ministry of Health regarding best practices according to international standards in combatting the coronavirus pandemic, including the means of protection and containment. They volunteered with local committees and different medical centers to assist the medical workers in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. 


Nicknamed the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale was a British nurse, statistician, and social reformer who founded modern nursing. Having recently completed a course in nursing training in Germany, against the wishes of her wealthy family, Florence answered a government appeal for nurses to help care for soldiers in the Crimean War (1854-56). With a team of thirty-eight nurses, she arrived by ship in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in early November 1854. Conditions were dire, as the dirty and vermin-ridden hospital lacked even basic equipment and provisions. Nevertheless, large numbers of wounded soldiers arrived regularly from across the Black Sea, where the war was fought in the Crimea. More of these patients were suffering from disease, however, than from battle wounds. Having to overcome the initial refusal of the male army doctors, Florence soon improved the medical and sanitary arrangements, set up food kitchens, washed linen and clothes, wrote home on behalf of the soldiers, and introduced reading rooms. Her nickname stems from her habit of making rounds at night to look after the sick under her care.

Florence was also a ground-breaking statistician. When she arrived at Scutari hospital, the number of deaths was not being recorded appropriately. Her use of statistics cut through rumor and hearsay, while diagrams provided hard evidence in support of her recommendations for reforms in patient care. Through data analysis, she found that soldiers were more likely to survive if they stayed in the hospitals at the front (which had a 12.5 percent mortality rate) than if they were transferred to the Scutari hospital (which had a 37.5 percent mortality rate). In 1859, in recognition of her pioneering work, she was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. (Source: National Army Museum, Chelsea, London).