This is war. The invisible enemy: COVID-19. The enemy does not discriminate, shows no mercy, and is not backing down. Who is strategizing against this enemy? There is a new Commander who has a unique set of skills to provide healthcare and support executive function. These new Commanders are dedicated 24/7 to organizing personnel and operations at the front lines of major hospitals, testing sites, and care centers across our communities. The troops are prepared, supported, and fueled by the leadership of their Commander, who is not backing down to this enemy. Who are these new Commanders? They are our Nurse Leaders around the nation. Our Nurse Leaders come in the roles of Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing Directors and Managers, Nurse Educators, Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) and each of the frontline nurses caring for patients across the healthcare continuum every day.
Our nation has over 4 million nurses making up 50% of the healthcare workforce. Some of these nurses have even been called out of retirement to respond to the ever changing and uncertain demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Nurse Commanders are leading their troops to be able to persevere in the face of protective equipment (PPE) shortages/inadequate protection, and still stand up and deliver consistently safe patient care, despite overcrowded Intensive Care Units and Emergency Departments. This is our nursing pledge, and this is the pledge that nurses stand up to every day. Our Nurse Commanders are behind the scenes staffing units, budgeting for equipment, supporting staff needs, researching grants, educating patients and families, precepting those entering the profession, advocating for policy reform, and so much more. These roles barely scratch the surface of what these Commanders are doing daily while also guiding and supporting our frontline providers during these uncertain and unprecedented times. These Commanders, our Nurse Leaders, are critical to the health care system because they possess medical knowledge and administrative skills that will beat out this invisible enemy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse”, in recognition of the 200th birth anniversary of nursing’s founder- Florence Nightingale. How timely! Nightingale is widely recognized as the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ who cared for soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s. Nightingale is a symbol of HOPE in the face of war. However, very few know her as the scientist and political activist that she truly was. Nightingale was one of the pioneers of epidemiology who collected and used scientific data to influence policy to spearhead sanitation reform in London during the Industrial era. She was also influential in establishing the scope of Public Health practice, where for the first-time government became responsible for the health of its people. It is because of Nightingale that handwashing and other hygienic practices in hospitals became critical practice for infection control. Today, hand washing is our first line of defense against our invisible enemy, COVID-19. The American Nurse Association (ANA) Enterprise is celebrating the Year of the Nurse by promoting nurse excellence, innovation, and leadership (ANA, 2020).