Nurses Week a Time for Celebration and Advocacy
As I write this, I think of the brave nurses who recently stood their ground on the steps of the Arizona Capitol (and elsewhere) in the face of angry protesters who were demanding that the governor roll back pandemic stay-at-home precautions. I think of the brave nurses working in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, often without adequate protective gear and while living apart from their families to safeguard them against infection. I think of the brave nurses in boardrooms and in the halls of Congress, fighting for policy changes that improve patient care and care capacity.
If National Nurses Week is meant to highlight how we meet health care needs, I’d say this particular year is providing rather unique opportunities to see the passion and expertise nurses have for patient advocacy and public health.
Penn Nursing, even before the pandemic hit, planned a year-long celebration to recognize the World Health Organization’s designation of 2020 as the Year of the Nurse & Midwife, with National Nurses Week as a special observation, marked by events for the public as well as our own community. We’ve moved ahead with many of our plans for both initiatives, even as we go about our daily lives in very changed circumstances. But I have to say that the meaning behind both of these efforts feels more critical now in light of the last several months.
Nurses must have a voice at the table—at all tables. Whether that is health system leadership at the bedside or in the boardroom; service as a board member of a corporation or a nonprofit organization; running for political office at the local, state, or federal level; or something else entirely—we must always ensure that nurses have an opportunity to share our individual and collective expertise for the greater good.
This will be crucial in the months and years ahead. In the short-term, we can help as governments and companies plan to ease lockdown restrictions and consider risk management strategies. In the longer-term, we can and should be crafting and advising on policy around contingency planning, ensuring the most vulnerable populations receive needed prevention and care services, as well as preventing the next pandemic. The decisions that governments and companies are making should be informed by those with both first-hand experience in health and health care, and an education that embraces high quality science and research. Namely, nurses. This is how we educate the public—by finding ways to amplify our voices.
As we celebrate National Nurses Week this year, as well as the Year of the Nurse & Midwife, let us also celebrate every option we have at our disposal to put our expertise to use. Now more than ever, nursing matters, and the work we do—the leadership we provide—is critically important.
Many thanks for all you do!
Antonia M. Villarruel
Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing