The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife during COVID-19
We are in a time none of us could have expected. At the beginning of 2020, I had high hopes for celebrating the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and yet today, it feels like there is little to cheer about except to celebrate the courage, commitment, and competency of nurses. Many around the world are risking their lives to take care of COVID-19 patients as the death toll rises daily. It is sobering and difficult to process.
Yet, as nurses, that’s what we must do. It’s our calling and our responsibility to move forward and care for patients even when times are desperate. It takes courage, dedication, leadership, strength, and fight to push through something as dreadful as a pandemic.
But it’s also these characteristics of our profession that give me the most hope.
I think back to nursing generations past, like that of Florence Nightingale, who was surrounded by disease during the Crimean War. Or Anna D. Wolf, who was a new nurse during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The times were difficult, overbearing, bleak, and tragic, and those nurses had far fewer supplies, resources, and research than we do today. They set aside fear for bravery. It was not easy, and it was not glamorous. They received far less recognition than we do today, but they did it anyway.
We have a lot to learn from these legendary mentors, and it’s my hope that at the end of COVID-19, we will have a wealth of knowledge to pass on to those who will come behind us. Because while it’s uncomfortable to think about it now, the future will hold more global disease and disasters that upset our normalcy and call on us again for leadership and sacrifice.
Even now in the middle of this pandemic, we must be asking ourselves questions and documenting everything we are doing. What have we gotten right? Where have we failed? What in the future is going to prepare us for a better outcome than we see today? Our ability to think critically and answer these questions will make a difference to the next generations and will hopefully guide their response, just as we have navigated this time from the mistakes and the achievements of our predecessors.
It’s one of the reasons I have started a daily podcast called COVID Considerations. It’s an outlet to reflect, think, and talk about topics that have most affected us as nurses and people, like the ethics of how to care for such an influx of patients, end-of-life conversations, and whether the public should be wearing masks. It serves as a diary of events, a log of my thoughts, and another way for me, the profession, and the public to digest what we are experiencing.
We still have a long way to go in fighting this pandemic, but I have hope. History tells us that by coming together with diligence and courage, we will get through. Until then, let’s support our nursing colleagues, our neighbors, family, and friends, and find ways to use our voices for encouragement, knowledge, and empowerment.
Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN is the Dean and a Professor of Nursing at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She has been a registered nurse since 1980 and has clinical, teaching, and practice expertise in cardiovascular science and the care of vulnerable populations. Across her career, she has been committed to developing innovative models of person-centered care delivery and evidence-based teaching.
Dr. Davidson is secretary general of the Secretariat of the World Health Organizations Collaborating Centers for Nursing and Midwifery, counsel general of the International Council on Women’s Health Issues, a member of Sigma Theta Tau International’s Institute for Global Healthcare Leadership Advisory Board, and a board member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. She also serves on the Board on Health Care Services for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.