By Beth Wathen, MSN, APRN, CCRN-K. aacn.org
The end of the year is typically a time of reflection. It’s a time to look back, on the good and the bad, and find those moments and lessons that you’ll carry into the new year. This year has been like no other. As I reflect on 2020, many memories and emotions surface … fear, sadness, frustration, but also pride, awe, inspiration and determination.
I remember the intense pride I felt when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Despite comprising the largest and most trusted sector of healthcare professionals, nurses have historically been underrepresented or misrepresented in many forums, including the media, policymaking tables, etc. So the WHO’s designation excited me. It was our time to shine, to show the world who we are and what we do every day.
Little could I or anyone else have known how apt that declaration, the Year of the Nurse, would become. When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, nurses were at the forefront and remain there today. If ever there was a year of the nurse, this year was it.
Reflecting on 2020, I feel a sense of profound frustration and sadness, as well as determination. This year, we’ve shown the world who we are and what a critical role we fill in providing for the health of our communities. Yet, day after day, nurses and other healthcare professionals have had to put themselves in harm’s way, often without appropriate PPE to protect themselves, and without adequate staffing, equipment and other resources. Many in our nursing community have become ill themselves, and many have died. This outcome is unacceptable. Additionally, the immense devastation of the pandemic has led to a profound emotional and mental burden borne by nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Yet, as a nurse, I also look back on 2020 with pride and awe. Brene Brown says, “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” Nurses have shown up, every day, working tirelessly to care for their patients amid the social, emotional and physical devastation the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. I am inspired by how nurses have stepped forward and how they have innovated relentlessly during this pandemic to find solutions to provide optimal care in this new era. I am inspired by the collective teamwork and the endless compassion, empathy and humanity given to our patients, especially in their darkest hours, when their families could not be at their sides. I’m inspired by how nurses have “shown up” day after day, gaining strength from each other, recognizing that we are stronger together. And I’m inspired by how AACN has shown up with advocacy efforts and COVID-19 resources.
Nursing and healthcare will forever be changed by this pandemic. As 2020 draws to a close, it is clear the fight is not over. The months ahead will be challenging. I am confident, however, that we will persevere. We will continue to hold each other up and draw strength from each other.
Looking forward to 2021, it is the collective experience of all these emotions that fuel my determination. I am hopeful the pandemic will slowly begin to loosen its grip on us and, when it does, we must rise up to celebrate and honor the incredible impact and contributions nurses have made. We must honor all those we have lost. We must chronicle and share our collective stories of this ‘Year of the Nurse.’ We must embrace the broader platform we have to use our voice in shaping the future of healthcare. And we must continue to advocate fiercely and unwaveringly for appropriate PPE, staffing, equipment and resources to support both the physical and mental well-being of all healthcare personnel. We must work together to continue to advance the many strides nurses have made as healthcare leaders throughout this transformational year.
I look forward with renewed pride and awe for our profession, and a steadfast strength and determination to continue elevating our voice in advocacy for our nursing community.
As you reflect on 2020, take a moment to honor your role and your impact during this pandemic. I encourage you to find those ‘positives’ you’ll take forward. What moments filled your soul? What got you through the darkest times? What made you proud? Embrace your good memories and carry them with you into 2021.
What do you look forward to?