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125 years of progress

Author(s): Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN President, American Nurses Association

ANA’s track record shapes its pandemic response. 

“We have been so busy that we don’t know where we are at. I work 10 hours per day and then overtime. Everyone is rushed to death.… Was home this afternoon, the second time in 3 weeks. I do not dare go in the house. I feel as if I were some sort of pestilence.”     

Those words, written in 1918 by Imogene Lockwood, a nurse at Union Labor Hospital in Eureka, California, could have been expressed thousands of times over the past 18 months by nurses nationwide dealing with the defining public health crisis of our time. 

Now, as in Lockwood’s time, nurses remain guardians over the nation’s health through their actions, advocacy, and accountability. The American Nurses Association (ANA) stands with them, championing them and their work, as well as issues of importance to the profession, from workplace and practice standards to equitable health access and innovative care models.  

I’m extremely proud to be at the helm of ANA at this time. During its 125th anniversary year, ANA, like nurses across the nation, has been called to do more, speak louder, and innovate rapidly. That the association mobilized quickly yet effectively as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated reflects both ANA’s and nursing’s DNA: We see a need, and we fulfill that need.  

ANA’s long tradition of adapting to changes in society, like nurses themselves, positioned us well to roll out a COVID-19 Resource Center (nursingworld.org/coronavirus), providing nurses with the latest evidence-based information and tools to practice safely and effectively, consider ethical issues related to patient care, and understand coronavirus vaccines.  

From the early days of the pandemic, the American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) and ANA launched a series of surveys to inform decisions about how best to support nurses during and after this public health crisis. Nurses’ responses to these surveys have shaped ANA’s public advocacy efforts, particularly regarding supply shortages such as personal protective equipment.  

The pandemic also has ripped the proverbial bandage off long-festering societal inequities. As an organization, ANA has faced the fact that historically our treatment of nurses of color didn’t align with our code of ethics. But now we’re partnering with other nursing organizations and our organizational affiliates to address racism in nursing and forge a brighter future for our profession and our patients. 

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the American Nurses Credentialing Center— dedicated to nursing excellence and quality patient outcomes, which also have formed the pillars of ANA since its founding in 1896. 

As the pandemic continues, nurses’ mental and physical health remains front and center. Similar to 1918’s Lockwood, they’re exhausted. ANA and the Foundation, through Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ (HNHN.org) and the Well-Being Initiative (nursingworld.org/thewellbeinginitiative), have constructed and continue adding to a deep self-care toolbox. The Nurse Suicide Prevention/Resilience site (bit.ly/2VeJzGO) also offers information and resources to address this major public health threat.  

These are just a few examples of what the ANA Enterprise has accomplished in this most trying time. 

For 125 years, across two pandemics, world wars, and battles on the homefront, ANA has been a positive force for nurses and nursing, an advocate for quality care and the highest standards of professionalism, and a champion for our patients’ and the nation’s health. As the future unfolds, ANA, drawing on its past and in collaboration with our constituent and state nurses associations and other organizations, looks forward to progress and purpose throughout the 21st Century.   

     

 Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN  

President, American Nurses Association 

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