nurses staring at camera

2020 Year Of The Nurse

Nurse celebrating
Year of the Nurse

“Year of the Nurse” World Health Organization Designation

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the year 2020 as “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. It also coincides with the 200th birthday of our modern mother, Florence Nightingale. This global occasion is important for the nursing profession for two reasons. First, it gives us the opportunity to engage in dialogue about our diverse roles and responsibilities. Second, it is a reminder of our humble beginnings, and a call to continue the noble work started so many years ago.

I have often said that I never knew what a nurse did until I became one. Like many others, I viewed the essence of nursing as feminine, caring, and obedient. And while these images may have been correct so many years ago, they should not be what defines the profession now, or in the future. Modern nurses are diverse and offer exceptional clinical expertise and innovation. At a minimum we are:

  • Educators
  • Public health experts
  • Policy advocates
  • Scientists
  • Clinicians
  • Individuals responsible for disease surveillance

Florence Nightingale “Flo”

In fact, these are the exact same roles that Flo assumed so many years ago. The iconic “Lady with the Lamp”, was a fiercely ambitious and passionate woman who defied social norms of her times. Flo hailed from an elite English family, and despite their protests, became a nurse at the ripe age of 33. While she is best known for her work in the Crimean War and setting professional standards, she also functioned as a scientist, quality expert, and driver for health reform. Additionally, Flo dedicated her efforts towards social reforms which impacted health and wellness of communities of people. Her devotion was deeply rooted in the need to serve others (something that I think most nurses can relate to).

May we hope that, when we are all dead and gone, leaders will arise who have been personally experienced in the hard, practical work, the difficulties, and the joys of organizing nursing reforms, and who will lead far beyond anything we have done!

Florence Nightingale

How to Celebrate the Year of the Nurse

Fast forward 150 years since her time of practice, and healthcare has changed tremendously. So in the spirit of Flo, here are a few ways you can celebrate The Year of the Nurse and Midwife (without a potluck) and work towards leading the future of nursing:

1. Take the credit you deserve. Stop brushing your talents under the rug and tell your story. Talk about why what you do is so important, and how your role was critical in the outcome.

2. Be bold. Know that you are a leader with every ounce of your being. You have a right to be at the table, so if there is not a seat, make one. You know exactly when and where a nurse is needed.

3. Rediscover your why. Why did you become a nurse? This is the root to your success. Tap back into it through reflection or in dialogue with others. This is your professional fountain of youth.

4. Build your professional social-connectedness. This goes for people within our profession and beyond. Collaborate across the health continuum with all the stakeholders. A team based approach to anything is bound to be a winner.

5. Be courageous. It can be uncomfortable sometimes, but our patients depend on it. Advocate for policy that keeps healthcare providers safe while keeping care accessible and financially responsible. Stand up for what you believe is right.

6. Dream & Do. What do you dream for nursing to look like? What is your dream role as a nurse? If it doesn’t exist yet- don’t just sit there. Get the wheels moving! Think outside of the box.

7. Find joy. Look for it every chance you get, and when you find it, tuck it in your pocket. It feeds your professional soul. Also, try keeping a gratitude journal or jar to review on days in which joy may be harder to find.

Let’s keep the spirit of Flo more alive than ever. Happy Year of the Nurse. I wish you a joyous 2020!