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Faculty Essay - Are You Seeing Nurses For The First Time?

Written by Dr. Kate Jones, Director, MSN Nursing Administration and DNP Nurse Executive Leadership Programs & Clinical Assistant Professor

I’ve been thinking a lot about nurses this week. In January 2019 when the World Health Organization announced that 2020 would be designated “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife” I was psyched.  I saw it as a way to celebrate nurses and educate the general public about who nurses are and what we do. As 2020 started at the College fo Nursing we, along with our great communications team, planned monthly campaigns featuring our alumni, students and faculty excelling in many clinical settings. In February, for American Heart Month, the spotlight was on our cardiac nurses. 

Then, COVID-19 happened. Little by little the world started to SEE nurses - not the TV character version, but the real deal. The smart, dedicated, skilled, caring, professional nurse. The nurse who cares for patients who are really, really sick. The nurse who is technically savvy enough to manage high tech equipment and who is authentically present enough to have just the right words. The nurse who maintains a safe but heartbreaking distance from her own family but is inches away from yours. Suddenly nurses and their colleagues, working in the most difficult of circumstances, are being seen, recognized, acknowledged and appreciated.  

If you look a little further, you’ll see all the nurses in your community. The home health nurse, the hospice nurse, the school nurse, the oncology nurse, the labor and delivery nurse, the public health nurse...and so, so many more. Nurses are essential in every corner of the health care system. We find our home in the nursing specialty that matches our interests and captures our hearts.

And then there are the nurse educators. Those nurse heroes that you are in awe of today started out in nursing school with desire and drive, but without knowledge and skill. Nursing faculty, already experts in their own clinical specialties, are the secret ingredient that future nurses and current nurses rely on to guide their educational journeys. Some of my fellow faculty members are expressing feelings of guilt or remorse at not being on the “frontlines” of this pandemic.  I understand this feeling; it’s in our DNA to want to be where nurses are needed most.  But you ARE there. The nurses you educate bring with them into the workplace the skills that you taught and the compassion that you role modeled.  You are there.

 So in this Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, what can you do to honor nurses? Right now, you can stay at home. Please. Staying home flattens the curve, and flattening the curve decreases the workload, physical demands, personal risk and psychological distress that nurses are experiencing as a result of this pandemic. And when we are at the far end of the curve? Remember what you learned about nurses and nursing during this time.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.