Year of the Nurse – National Nurses Month

(courtesy of the Iowa Board of Nursing)

When the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the intent was to highlight the ability of nurses and midwives to transform healthcare around the world. Additionally, the celebrations were set to honor the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth on May 12th.  Early in the year – everything changed.

Little did the modern world know how very critical nurses and all healthcare workers are until experiencing the impact of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus and the disease called COVID-19. Never before has the knowledge, commitment and sacrifice of healthcare heroes been so evident. Inside hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and homes around the world, nurses and the healthcare teams are learning more about the new disease every day, testing and tracing patients, collecting data, observing trends, trying to flatten the disease curve, educating the public and providing the care for people fighting for their lives.

When Florence Nightingale (born May 12, 1820; died August 13, 1910) was sent to care for British soldiers during the Crimean War in 1854, she and her trained nursing team found the mayhem of war which included the wounded soldiers: More importantly, they observed the lack of sanitary sewers, ventilation and other needed medicine and equipment. Nightingale immediately set into place the foundation of hospital hygiene and sanitation. She began the use of statistical data to justify those actions she suggested. Infection rates declined. Hospital designs changed. The field of nursing changed. (

The more things change – the more they stay the same.

Wash your hands often.

Cover your cough and sneezes.

Avoid close contact.

Stay home if you’re sick.

Clean and disinfect.

Those statements have been ingrained into the public’s thinking over and over in the last eight weeks. It brings back Nightingale’s findings from 1854. Crowded conditions can add to the infection rates. The lack of sanitation and poor hygiene will spread the disease. “Fresh air” is critical for the healing of all. Today, we are back to basics to fight the dreaded COVID-19 disease.

Florence Nightingale was hailed as a hero. For centuries, nurses have impacted lives in meaningful and important ways. Nurses are leaders. Nurses are critical to the success of interprofessional healthcare teams. Nurses are collaborators. Nurses are innovators. Nurses are the caregivers.

Today – more than ever – nurses are heroes.