• July 1, 2020

CATES: Nurses are worth celebrating - Odessa American: Health

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CATES: Nurses are worth celebrating

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Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 4:00 am

Early in November of 2019, when most of us had never even hear of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the American Nurses Association (ANA) announced it was joining the World Health Assembly, the governing board of the World Health Organization, in global campaign of elevating and celebrating the essential contributions of nurses in the world, by naming 2020 “The International Year of the Nurse”. I’m pretty sure when this idea was brought up as an idea sometime in 2018 or early 2019, no one had any idea that nursing in 2020 would involve a global pandemic that has claimed over 200,000 lives world-wide, and that nurses and nursing would be pushed into the headlines in such a dramatic fashion.

2020 was chosen as the International Year of the Nurse because it is the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Nurses’ week always ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Florence Nightingale is the mother of modern nursing. She is also considering a major influencer on the field of statistics because she applied statistical theory to research, specifically infection control, long before anyone else even considered doing so. Florence Nightingale, during the Crimean War, took a small group of nurses into a British field hospital on a request of the Secretary of War because the death rate for wounded soldiers was horrific. When she arrived to the field hospital in Scutari, near Constantinople, she found it had been set up on top of a cesspool which was contaminated with sewage, that the patient were unbathed and left in their bodily secretions, and there were rodents and bugs throughout the building. Florence Nightingale established a sanitization process for the facility, a hygiene process for patients, and a kitchen where nutritious food was prepared in clean conditions, and a laundry so patients had clean clothes and linens. Those efforts dropped the death rate by 70%. She did those things with compassion and respect towards her patients to the point she was known as the Angel of the Crimea throughout the British Empire. After the war, she went back to England and established a hospital and nursing school. Her work in the Crimean Peninsula totally changed the perception of nursing. Before Florence Nightingale, nursing was not seen as a respectable profession. After her time in the Crimean Peninsula, nursing became an honorable vocation. Today, that respect continues. Every year, the Gallup organization puts out a poll of the most trusted professions. Nursing has won that poll every year, except one, since it began more than 20 years ago. The year that nursing wasn’t number one, firefighters were awarded that honor—and they should have been. That year was 2001, not long after 9-11.

Nursing has had a lot of challenges and a lot of changes since Florence Nightingale’s time. Practicing nursing in 2020 is very different than it was in Florence Nightingale’s time. But, the best things that Florence Nightingale gave nurses have endured. An understanding of holistic care—that a patient needs not just medicine, but a clean environment, good food, and physical, emotional, and spiritual care to get better when they are ill. She understood that nursing is a science, she didn’t just say a clean environment helps patients get better, she proved it with statistics and research—techniques we still use in nursing today.

The International Year of the Nurse looks back to honor Florence Nightingale and the millions of nurses who have come since, but it is also looking forward. While I would not wish this pandemic never happened, it has done more than any ad campaign ever could have to highlight nursing. We have seen some amazing examples in the last few months of nurses, all across the world, putting their own lives in danger for someone they do not know. We have seen nurses holding the hand of a stranger in their most vulnerable moments when their families could not. These is not just nurses in New York, or Italy or China. These are nurses here in the Permian Basin. We have had nurses volunteer to go to hotspots across the country to help their colleagues who are stretched far too thin because their area has been hit hard by coronavirus. Both hospitals here in Odessa have had COVID-19 positive patients, and the nurses here have stepped up to care for them. I have had nurses in the community reach out and say “how can I help?” even though they don’t work in a hospital on a normal day. I think Florence Nightingale would be very proud of her legacy if she could see how nurses are standing up to the challenge of COVID-19.

Please reach out to the nurses in your life this week and tell them “Happy Nurses Week”, and thank them for the things they do for others. If you are a nurse, I am honored to be your colleague. Thank you so much for everything you do.

Odessa, TX

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