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It’s the Year of the Nurse and Midwife

This year’s celebration is more poignant than anyone could have imagined

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The World Health Organization’s Executive Board designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. This year was chosen to honor Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. And if the founder of nursing were alive today, she could probably not be prouder of nurses’ heroic measures and personal sacrifice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Lisette Hilton

“Who could have imagined the critical importance of nurses in our society would be brought into focus so clearly by the COVID-19 pandemic?” wrote Bonnie Barnes, FAAN, co-founder of the DAISY Foundation, in a Nurse.com article. “We all depend on the resilience of nurses — their ability to deal with everything being thrown at them and still return the next day, or night, to do it all over again. We depend on nurses’ conviction, no matter the circumstances, to treat us every day with their clinical excellence but also to deliver that care with compassion.” Along with the year-long nursing and midwifery celebration, the organization aimed to develop the first State of the World’s Nursing Report as well as the State of the World’s Midwifery report. In addition, a three-year Nursing Now campaign aimed at improving health globally by raising the status of nursing, which is set to culminate in 2020, will support dissemination and policy dialogue around both reports.

It’s about gratitude

Although difficult with the current COVID-19 pandemic ongoing in the country and around the world, taking a moment to recognize the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is important. And it’s important that nurse leaders drive these efforts, when possible, said Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, Nurse.com consultant. “Like our founder, leaders are more than just managers or clinicians,” she said. “The best among them are the ones who possess the right blend of relationship skills, knowledge and professionalism, and who use those skills to motivate and inspire others.” Williamson said these leaders should encourage pride in the WHO honor and celebrate it. Barnes said the gratitude shown to nurses reminds them they are making a difference, “a difference they may not realize they are making while in the throes of overloaded hospitals and too few resources that have become all too common during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

About the Author

Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer. She has covered news about health, wellness and medicine for the past 25 years.

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Nurses, This Is Our Year.
UMSON proudly celebrates 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse, as designated by the World Health Organization, and honors the pivotal role that nurses play in providing evidence-based, empathetic health care nationwide and around the globe. Now more than ever, as the world faces extraordinary health challenges, nurses are leading the way. We honor and thank you.

In April, the organization released the State of the World’s Nursing Report. According to the report's foreword, it “reveals much to celebrate about the nursing workforce," including opportunities for education and enhanced professional roles. “Essentially, with WHO naming 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, what that will do for nurses not only in the United States but also across the world is to raise the level and profile of nursing — who we are, what we do, the contributions that we make to healthcare and to the people around the globe,” said Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association. This is a momentous time for nursing, according to Jennifer Dohrn, DNP, CNM, FAAN, associate professor of nursing and director of the Office of Global Initiatives and WHO, at Columbia University School of Nursing. Dohrn said that in 2017, for example, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appointed registered nurse Elizabeth Iro as WHO’s chief nursing officer. With the announcement, Tedros fulfilled a commitment he made to appoint a nurse to his senior team, according to a WHO press release. “Nurses play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions around the world, but also in transforming health policies, promoting health in communities and supporting patients and families,” Tedros said in the release.

The move opens the door for nursing’s voice to be heard in a powerful way, said Dohrn, who worked with an advisory committee for the State of the World’s Nursing Report to ensure nursing accomplishments at national and regional levels are documented. She also participated in writing WHO’s global strategic directions for strengthening nursing and midwifery, which gives nurses around the globe a useful plan for how they can promote and strengthen the nursing profession to improve the health of people everywhere. “Nurses represent the majority of healthcare providers globally,” she said. “With the WHO Executive Board declaring 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we have an opportunity to tell and show people everywhere what we do and how we are central for people to be healthy. It can give new visibility to our profession, to the larger healthcare team and to the public.” Designating 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife suggests nurses are being valued and appreciated for the work they do. That’s the culmination of a lifelong goal for Grant and others in the profession. “We do evidence-based practice. We do research. We are involved in aspects of innovation and technology,” he said. “Those are things the average person may not picture a nurse being involved with, [yet,] we have been in that arena for quite some time. It’s just now being celebrated and fully understood — the contributions that we make.”

Raise your voices

See why this celebration is so important

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