Photo: Jan Mauck

Nurses Today Would Make Florence Nightingale Proud

Posted on May 12, 2020 by Jan Mauck, co-chair of Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Herald-Tribune on May 10. Jan Mauck retired as chief nursing officer from Sarasota Memorial Hospital in 2016. Since then, she has co-chaired the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition, a grassroots coalition of hospital, nursing school, and volunteer community leaders working to strengthen the four-county region's nursing workforce through scholarships, advocacy, and support.

The theme for this year's Nurses Week celebrations — Year of the Nurse — was set long before coronavirus upended our world. But given the heroic role nurses have played during this pandemic, the public spotlight could not be more poignant or well deserved.

Never in my 45-year nursing career has the value — and vulnerability — of nursing been so clearly brought into focus.

Over the past three months, the world has watched and worried as nurses bravely confronted COVID-19 head-on. Despite concerns for their own families and personal safety, emergency, intensive care, and other specialty nurses have presented a united front — screening patients at front entrances, isolating those with coronavirus symptoms, spending long hours and days confined in protective gear, protecting others from the spread of infection, and finding new ways to comfort and connect families separated from loved ones with a life-threatening illness.

Meanwhile, the pandemic compelled nurses at all levels to take on new and expanded leadership roles, collaborating in ways they never had to before, as they tried to solve problems you would never expect in our nation's well-equipped health care system.

We have seen nurse educators assume new roles as safety officers. They teach less experienced nurses how to safely don and doff personal protective equipment and address countless questions and concerns to public hotlines. Nursing leaders oversee emergency operations and command centers, monitor dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment, and develop strategies to increase ICU and ventilator capacity. Employees and public health nurses review test results, notify care providers and community members of possible exposure, and monitor symptoms and the well-being of those in quarantine. Research nurses work with physicians and patients enrolled in critical trials, and student nurses, nursing instructors, and retired and volunteer nurses coordinate virtual education programs, drive-through testing sites, and many other community health initiatives. The list of nursing roles and responsibilities in this crisis gets larger every day.

It's often been said that nursing is a calling, but it is more than that. It is a profession people trust and depend on to keep us safe. We rely on nurses' resilience — to be there for us no matter what. We rely on their expertise — to provide critical interventions and safeguard our health. And we rely on their conviction and compassion — to be our voice when we cannot speak for ourselves.

This Nurses Week was meant to mark the 200th birth year of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. More than any celebration could have, today's nurses are demonstrating her dogged determination and the myriad ways they contribute, adapt, and take the lead in crisis situations.

On behalf of the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition, I would like to share our thanks to the dedicated nurses, and the many other health care heroes working with them to keep our community safe.

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