Today marks International Nurses Day – a day to commemorate the invaluable contribution nurses have made to our society.

During the pandemic, it is not so much actors, popstars or celebrity influencers that we have come to idolise, but the ordinary men and women among us who have stepped up during extraordinary times to provide care, comfort and compassion to those in pain or suffering.

It is natural and just that we focus attention on the victims of coronavirus, or those who have been blighted in other ways, such as physically, mentally or financially.

However over the past year, we have also made a concentrated effort to pay tribute to our NHS and keyworkers in Ayrshire who have helped those in need and are now assisting in the mammoth task of vaccinating the population.

Let’s recap on just how incredible they have been.

In April 2020, just one month after the initial outbreak, we reported how student nurses and midwives from across Ayrshire supported the NHS in their fight against coronavirus, with around 1,200 University West of Scotland students who were in their second and third years of study at campuses like Ayr volunteering to work in hospitals across the country.

And it wasn’t long before the individual stories from those nurses on the frontline started filtering through.

In Cumnock, 25-year-old student nurse, Sophie Ritchie, demonstrated what it meant to go beyond the call of duty, working long hours and seven-day weeks in Ayr Hospital whilst also fulfilling her role as a carer. At the time, her mum said Sophie “is never at home, but never goes on about it”.

Fiona Johnstone, from Beith, was a student, too, when her and 12 colleagues from West College Scotland were drafted in to help on the frontline. The 34-year-old witnessed first-hand the effects of COVID, caring for those who were recovering and for those who were sadly moved to end of life care.

She said the thought of bringing the virus home to her young family was “nerve-wracking”.

In February this year, an Ayrshire nurse who works on a coronavirus ward wrote a heartfelt poem about her experience in the profession after she watched a patient die from the virus all alone.

The piece reflects on her feelings of helplessness and how she was consumed by the suffering around her during the health crisis. It also shone a light on the devastation that staff on the frontline deal with on a daily basis. You can read the poem here.

Although the nurses’ responsibility was great, and their perseverance and emotional strength endlessly admirable, it was not without recognition from those in the local community.

In November 2020, an artist who works at Ayr Hospital painted a personal tribute to the NHS ‘angels’ who worked on the frontline.

Lindsay Howie, from Maybole, said he was inspired to create the piece for all the wonderful medical professionals he had observed throughout the pandemic. Since we last went to print, it was being considered for display in one of the hospital's intensive care units.

Fundraising pages were also set up in their hundreds to raise money for keyworkers who continued to provide irreplaceable support to patients despite the challenges of 2020. 

In October, over £1,500 was raised for the Cumnock district nursing team who cared for ex-PE teacher and beloved family man, Ronnie Boid, who passed away after a “short but determined” battle with cancer.

His daughter, Jilly, said the nurses “couldn’t have given him a more dignified end.”

Last month, too, Renal Supportive Care Nurse, Tricia Sutherland, was awarded Nurse of the Year from the British Journal of Nursing for her 10-year service as staff nurse at University Hospital Crosshouse - a fitting acknowledgement of her dedication to the role.

So even as International Nurses Day comes to a close later on today, let us keep at the forefront of our minds just how hardworking and devoted our nurses are, and how much they continue to do right by the people of Ayrshire in their time of need.

Is there a nurse in your life who deserves some recognition today? Tag them in the comments below!