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No Cure Without Care

By Barbara Lockart posted 06-30-2020 02:57 PM

  

The greatest gift you can give other people is your story.” -- Judd Apatow

2020, Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Our year. Our stories. A celebration of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. An opportunity to look to the future to raise awareness of how instrumental nurses are to global health. A way to honor nurses, who for the last 160 years have stood by patients and elevated our profession to the most trusted in America. Nursing science and care heals. There is no cure without the care provided to patients by 20 million nurses around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife to honor nurses, but also to serve as a call to increase the number of global nurses caring for patients to 29 million by 2030. The WHO vision for a healthy planet, outlined in State of the World’s Nursing 2020, states that “nurses are critical to deliver on the promise of ‘leaving no one behind.’” Sharing our stories regarding the joys and challenges of nursing is an important component of meeting the WHO’s call. Nurses hold so many of our patients’ stories; our personal stories as nurses can also be harnessed to change the trajectory of health care.

Nurses contribute to health in a variety of ways: verifying chemotherapy doses, making a bed, asking for and establishing evidence-based practices to support nursing interventions, holding elected office, blogging, and volunteering. Reflecting on these actions, the common thread is that nurses show up. We are present. Whether at the bedside, battlefield, or Congress, we show up. And yet, we are often invisible. Nurses are rarely interviewed as experts, asked to sit on a hospital Board of Directors, or hold faculty appointments to medical schools. Why is the most trusted profession in America not in the room where it happens? Who is telling our stories?

Celebrations planned for 2020 were thwarted with the arrival of COVID-19. No time for Nurses’ Week, we have lives to save. Suddenly health care workers, especially nurses, were exalted. Nurses cared for patients and each other. And when they were done with their shifts, they showed up to narrate the stories of patients too weak, too ill, too marginalized to have a voice. The nurses shared their experiences of scrambling for equipment, working horrendous hours, and being scared for the safety of their families, colleagues, and communities.

As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I am in awe of my front-line nursing colleagues. Mine is not the story of caring for COVID patients. The accolades bestowed upon me by the community felt unearned. But eventually I realized all nurses hold space. We don’t flinch. We stand with our colleagues facing down health disparities, unbelievable working conditions, and bed shortages. The repercussions of COVID are now being realized. Parents who were afraid to bring their child to the hospital because they feared COVID now face a diagnosis of cancer months after symptoms were first seen. Some of our patients’ parents find themselves out of work and worried about feeding their children, paying rent, or finding the gas money to get them to the hospital.

COVID raised awareness of the issues pediatric hematology/oncology nurses witness every day. Access to care, school and neighborhood safety, family structure, and transportation influence emotional, spiritual, and physical health. And because we are trusted, telling our stories and our patients’ stories has value.

Healthcare disparities seen in Black, Indigenous, or people of color populations revealed by COVID cannot not be ignored. The protests following the killing of George Floyd mandate nurses examine the influence racism has on the care of our patients. Children are not immune to the legacy that the Tuskegee Study and Henrietta Lacks have on families’ decisions to enroll on clinical trials. Sickle cell patients are labeled as drug seekers when advocating for appropriate treatment of veno-occlusive crisis. Pediatric hematology/oncology nurses are the voices for our patients. Their stories are woven into our profession. The challenges facing nurses are championing access to care that meets the medical needs of our patients.

2020’s Year of the Nurse will be successful if nurses recognize that the power of nursing is the vision Nurse Nightingale had more than 150 years ago. As the largest cadre of global healthcare professionals, nurses have the power to enact anti-racist and LGBTQ+-inclusive policies, demand all children are raised in a safe environment capable of meeting healthcare and academic needs, and reduce health disparities to all pediatric, adolescent, and young adult patients.

In this moment, 2020 feels as though history is being made. Time will show if 2020 was a pivotal year. APHON has a 50-year legacy of advocating for our patients, ensuring access to clinical trials, pushing the boundaries of what was once thought to be impossible. I know APHON nurses are ready to meet the WHO goal of leaving no one behind. Change envisioned by nurses will be achieved with compassion, dedication to science, and the willingness to share our stories. Let’s celebrate 2020’s Year of the Nurse by honoring all we have accomplished and continuing to advance our profession.

 

2020 Year of the Nurse Challenge

Share your stories

Vote

Advocate

Practice resiliency

Mentor your fellow nurses

APHON membership

 

Want to learn more about elevating nurses’ voices and telling our stories? This American Nurses Association webinar is free and earns you 1 CE: https://www.nursingworld.org/continuing-education/magnify-your-voice-use-storytelling-to-advance-nursing/.


Reading List

Ibram X. Kendi, How to be Anti-Racist

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Maria Smilios, The Black Angels, the Untold Story of the African-American Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis (An Oprah Book selection)
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