Monday, May 11, 2020

The Profound Meaning of Nurses' Week During a Pandemic: Nurses Show Up

Nurses' Week is upon us, and May 12th, 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Florence Nightingale, the veritable progenitor of the modern profession of nursing. Meanwhile, we also find ourselves in the middle of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife as declared late in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the healthcare arm of the United Nations. Add to this the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have a recipe for a very profound moment when it comes to nurses and the nursing profession in this global context.

Photo by Anna Shvets from

The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife

The WHO's declaration of The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife is very clear in its communication regarding how crucial it is to support nurses, both now and in the future: 
Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services. These are the people who devote their lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting everyday essential health needs. They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

That’s why the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

Join WHO and partners including, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a year-long effort to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face, and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce.

Who could not join in honoring nurses, the most trusted professionals in the United States year after year in the Gallup Poll? They are the very connective tissue of the healthcare system, and the Gallup organization reported the following in January of 2020: 
We all know that nurses are the most highly trusted professionals in the United States 18 years running, and it's no surprise to nurses and those who see them for who they are that we deserve support, resources, and, as the WHO stated, "increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce."

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from

Florence on Steroids

Florence Nightingale’s innovations of 200 years ago continue to reap the fruit of her tireless labors, and nursing continues to grow in depth, breadth, authority, and nurses' sense of personal and professional agency. 

What we need at this time in history is 3 millions Florence Nightingales on steroids. We need nurse advocates; nurse members of Congress; nurses running for local and state office; nurse journalists; nurse truth-tellers; nurse filmmakers; and nurses willing to be assertive, outspoken, and unafraid to speak their truth. 

Ms. Nightingale was a force to be reckoned with to be sure, and now we need Nightingales everywhere. In fact, many of those Nightingales exist in this moment: Dr. Bonnie Clipper; Tiffany Swedeen, RN, BSN, CPC/CPRC; Dr. Renee Thompson; Donna Cardillo, MA, RN, CSP, FAAN; Tim Raderstorf, DNP, MSN, BS; Theresa Brown, BSN, RN; Michelle Podlesni, RN, CEO; Caroline Pauline Cardenas, MSN, MA, RN, CBCN; Lisbeth Overton, RN, BSN; Damion Keith Jenkins, RN, MSN; and so many others who are too numerous to mention. 

We also have documentary filmmaker Carolyn Jones and her producer, Lisa Frank, who have produced the beautiful nurse-centric films, The American Nurse, Defining Hope, and their upcoming film focused solely on ED nurses, "In Case of Emergency". In fact, The American Nurse is currently available online to watch for free as a thank you from Carolyn and her team to hard-working, dedicated nurses worldwide.


Nurses Always Show Up

At this profoundly challenging time in the history of human civilization, a very real existential threat is in our midst, no matter how some will deny it and use pseudoscience to deny it. As those individuals spread disinformation and confusion, nurses and their multidisciplinary colleagues around the world are fighting the good fight to keep as many human beings alive and well, and helping those who must die to do so with dignity.

Whether it's a nurse in an ICU or ER, a public health nurse, a school nurse, or a nurse researcher working around the clock, nurses all do one thing no matter what: we show up. And whether we show up for patients, colleagues, friends, family, or the elderly neighbor next door, we do what we are called to do, and we do it every day.

Happy Nurses Day; Happy Nurses Weeks; happy 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale; and happy International Year of the Nurse and Midwife as declared by the WHO. 

Keep showing up, keep thinking like a nurse, and keep taking care of yourself as you care for others. Nurses can't be 100% selfless, but we can give as much as possible without completely draining ourselves in the process. Running on empty isn't healthy for anyone, and nurses need spiritual, emotional, relational, psychological, and intellectual fuel for the journey. Feed yourself well. 

With love and limitless respect from my nurse's heart to yours, 

Nurse Keith


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Please visit his online platforms and reach out for his support when you need it most.

Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, Black Doctor, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog,, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives, and his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George.

No comments: