Professor Charlotte McArdle: On Florence Nightingale's birthday, why NI's 22,000 nurses deserve a big 'thank you' from all of us
Nurses make a huge contribution to care and our society and I am so proud of the work they do, whether in the community, nursing homes, the independent sector, or within our hospitals.
I know from my own nursing career the huge personal sacrifices nurses make, doing extra shifts, or changing off-duty at short notice so they can care for patients.
That's what being a professional and a registered nurse means - ensuing the best outcomes for the people you provide care and treatment to.
On International Nurses Day tomorrow, which is celebrated all over the world on Florence Nightingale's birthday, a founding leader of the profession, I want to say a very big thank you to our nurses, because I know how pressurised our profession is at the moment. We are working during very challenging and uncertain times.
However, our nurses are tenacious and hard-working and they have my deep appreciation for that.
I also want to say, bear with us. It will take a little longer to sort out our workforce challenges, but there is a plan and we will start to see the benefits of that soon.
There is hope for the future and things will get better as we work together to transform the health and social care system in Northern Ireland.
There are nursing shortages throughout the world - Northern Ireland is no exception. These shortages make working environments particularly challenging.
Despite this, our nurses go the extra mile and do extraordinary things to make sure people are cared for to the best of their ability.
As a nurse, every day is different; you're pushed to your limits, but you go home knowing you've made a difference.
We've been investing heavily in undergraduate nurse training places and this year we'll see the first cohort of those additional places go on to the register.
Next year, we will see that increase and the following year increase again.
So, we're starting to see the fruits of our investment, which I hope will give optimism to those trying to deliver care across our settings.
I look forward to many young, bright and ambitious men and women joining the nursing profession. Our new nurses have such an exciting career ahead of them, because so many future care services will be nurse-led.
Nursing will continue to evolve, with early intervention being where the profession can have its biggest impact.
Nurses are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see, and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital.
They are also part of their local community - sharing its culture, strengths and vulnerabilities.
Therefore, nurses are ideally placed to deliver universal health for all. They are a voice to lead and to help shape and deliver effective interventions to meet the needs of patients, families and communities.
Nursing is a dynamic, flexible and respected profession. It learns from its past to inform its future and it shapes itself to meet the needs of the population.
I urge all nurses to grasp the opportunities that are being presented to us to lead transformational change and improve outcomes for the populations we serve.
I was delighted that we launched Nursing Now Northern Ireland in January this year, which is a global campaign that aims to raise the profile and status of nurses.
As part of our International Nurses Day celebration, nurses are working in partnership with our primary schools to promote nursing as a career with our children. I very much look forward to working with our children this year, who will be our future nurses.
I am proud of our profession, have always been proud to be a nurse and proud of the work nurses do every day and the outcomes they achieve.
Professor Charlotte McArdle is Northern Ireland's chief nursing officer