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National Nurses Week: Shining a Spotlight on the Critical Care Provided by Our Nurses

Written By: Elisabeth Howard, Ph.D., CNM, FACNM Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinician Educator Director, Academic Midwifery Watson Caring Science Senior Scholar on May 09, 2023

Each May, we recognize Florence Nightingale’s birthday during National Nurses Week and celebrate her life and contributions to nursing. This year, it is especially timely to reflect on her legacy and the significant role of nurses because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the adverse effects of the pandemic, interest and enrollment in medical and nursing programs have increased. 

The Face of Nurses
Nursing ethics are founded on the work of Emmanuel Levinas.  It describes the importance of belonging and our shared humanity with patients and one another. The pandemic increased the visibility and the face of healthcare workers, explicitly drawing attention to the challenges and rewards of patient care and being a nurse. 

This window into the human and relationship-centered world of nursing care did not steer people away; it inspired an interest in nursing as a meaningful career. Additionally, Covid-19 clinical care displayed the intense creativity involved in human-centered care.  
Post-Pandemic Advances
Historically, despite great darkness, post-pandemic times enjoyed increased creativity and collaboration across disciplines. For example, the Black Plague was followed by the Renaissance, a time of unprecedented partnership between artists and scientists. It was a time of innovation, re-imagining the world, examining perspective, beauty, and rebirth. Covid-19 clinical care is abundant with such ingenious inventions as nurse-led solutions.

Nurses are natural problem solvers and resourceful architects of the environment. They are at the forefront of developing person-centered and care-inspired clinical solutions. 

These examples span the gamut from:  
  • Troubleshooting mask design
  • Designing low-cost, protective face shields
  • Virtual rounding tools
  • Development of a hospital-prone team to effectively care for Covid patients. 
Nurses often have a can-do vision of hope and resolution. 
The Influx of Nursing Interest
The pandemic offered the world an inside look into nursing care's profound humanity and creativity. The surge of interest in this great profession can be ignited through connection and engagement in fostering a diversity, equity, and inclusion community and building a workforce that collectively ascends to deliver culturally responsive, equitable care. 
What’s Next?
In these recent dark times, nurses transformed lives through their care, elevating individuals and families, thereby lighting a path to health, wholeness, and equity.  

Let’s go forward in 2023, the 203rd anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, with the courage to see, connect, and gather at the festive table where everyone is welcome to sit. Let’s take this opportunity to nurture and grow the next generation of nurses.