12 March is the International Nurses Day (IND) and we take an opportunity to celebrate the unsung heroes and heroines who put the needs of others first.

IND is an international day celebrated around the world ( on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth) of each year, to mark the contributions nurses make to society. The day highlights the many ways nurses are leading the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year the International Council of Nurses (ICN) (a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations) has chosen the theme “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”. ICN has celebrated this day since 1965.

Read: On International Women’s Day, we remember Ebola heroine nurse Salome Karwah

In a press release issued to commemorate the day ICN “highlights and celebrates the many ways in which the tremendous work nurses carry out every day forms the basis for achieving the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

USAID is working with the government of Ethiopia to build up its human resources for health at hospitals, health center, and even remote rural health posts by helping educate and train nurses, midwives and other specialists in great shortage across the vast country. Photo: Nena Terrell, USAID Ethiopia/Flickr

ICN notes that nursing practices and nurse-led innovations are undoubtedly the catalysts for change leading communities, health care systems and policy makers towards the successful achievement of not only Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, but all 17 goals.

“It is time that nurses’ voice is heard. Everyone in their lifetime has been or will be cared for by a nurse and that is precisely why individuals, communities and policy makers should all pay attention,” says Dr Judith Shamian, ICN President. “Investing in the nursing profession is essential for economic growth and the achievement of universal health care.”

Salome Karwah worked on the frontline to fight Ebola in Liberia but died because of hospital’s Ebola fear. Photo: SalomeKarwah

Nurses continue to make fundamental contributions to society to deliver the best and most adapted care to their communities and they often face serious financial, material and logistical challenges.

According to the ICN press statement, these actions are still too often overlooked as “nurses just doing their job”. However, many – including nurses themselves – fail to recognise, “is the invaluable contribution to sustainable development and sustainable health their initiatives, commitment and expertise represent for the common good of the planet,” ICN notes.

Today we celebrate and acknowledge the invaluable contributions nurses continue to make across the world.