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Blog: Happy New Year – the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

Let’s make 2020 a year to remember!

On my way home from a family Christmas I visited the lovely medieval church in the tiny village of Thoroton to pay my respects to a woman I’ve never met, but one to whom we all owe a lot.

Ethel Gordon-Fenwick, the number one nurse on the register, is buried in the churchyard at St Helena’s Church in the Nottinghamshire village where she grew up. A century ago Ethel was a well-known figure in the nursing community – a leading campaigner for the regulation and professionalisation of nursing, a journalist, and a suffragist.

The good fight

Ethel-bouqetEthel’s gravestone declares “I fought a good fight” and the dedication on the bouquet of flowers I laid on behalf of the NMC reads “Thank you for the fight!”

Because of Ethel – and the many others she worked alongside – nursing became a regulated profession in 1919. Last year, we marked the centenary of the Nurses Registration Act becoming law on 23 December 2019, never forgetting that midwives were early starters. The Midwives Act of 1902 was given the royal assent on 31 July 1902, some seventeen years earlier.

 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

Today is the first day of 2020 and more celebrations beckon. 12 May is the bicentenary of the birth of another nursing titan, Florence Nightingale. And globally, the World Health Organisation has named 2020 as the international year of the nurse and the midwife.

This is a fantastic opportunity for us to recognise and acknowledge the skilled, expert work of the dedicated, caring professionals on our register – be they nurses, midwives or nursing associates; working in acute hospitals, the community, nursing homes or other settings; caring for acutely ill or injured people, those with a physical or learning disability, mental health problems, coming in or going out of the world. Whatever your role, wherever you are, whoever you support – you are the heartbeat of our health and social care system and 2020 is a time for us to say thank you. Enjoy the celebrations – you’ve earned them.

The nurses, midwives and nursing associates I meet tell me how much they love their role – many describe it as a privilege. But the incredible care they provide is often delivered under very challenging circumstances. Let’s make sure that 2020 is also an opportunity for us to tackle some of the problems they face so that everyone has the time they need to care for people using health and social care services properly and kindly.

NMC in 2020

We will start 2020 with the formal launch of the Future Midwife education standards with events in all four UK countries. In April we will share our new NMC strategy for 2020 – 2025, setting out our ambitions to be the best regulator we can be to enable nurses, midwives and nursing associates to deliver the care we all want – safe, effective and kind.

And of course, we will join with our partners, the public and the 700,000 plus nurses, midwives and nursing associates on our register in the international year of the nurse and the midwife celebrations.


We’ve already had a brilliant start to the year with so many nurses and midwives recognised in the New Year’s Honours list. I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to each and every one for their passion and dedication. What’s been so touching reading their stories is they all thank their team and the people around them. Lovely!
Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone working while others indulged in the New Year celebrations – health and social care doesn’t stop because the year changes!

On behalf of everyone at the NMC, my very best wishes for the New Year to everyone using health and social care services; to all the nurses, midwives and nursing associates on our register; and all the partners we work with.

Let’s make 2020 a year to remember!

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