May 12 is International Nurses’ Day, and this is a particularly special one: not only does it fall during the WHO’s Year of the Nurse and of the Midwife, but it’s also the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
Nightingale, born in 1820, felt called to care for others and became a nurse. She is best known for her work at a British military hospital during the Crimean war. Faced with horrendous conditions and wounded soldiers suffering from communicable diseases, the “Lady with the Lamp” served with compassion and returned to England with a renewed focus on sanitary healthcare. Later delving into statistics, Nightingale used data to revolutionize nursing as a profession.
Nightingale paved the way for other nursing icons, like Ethel Gordon Fenwick, who campaigned for nurses to be registered and founded the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The ICN established International Nurses’ Day and advocates for nurses globally. Our current situation has made that more important than ever, as nurses are at the frontline of the pandemic all over the world.
Nurses are consistently ranked as the most trusted, honest, and ethical professionals in the United States. They are key to quality healthcare and are the ones to develop workarounds when care systems fail. Yet nurses are often faced with enormous obstacles. Poor nurse-to-patient ratios and a lack of resources make their difficult jobs even harder.
On this Nurses’ Day, we’d like to focus on what we can do for the nurses in our midst. While social media posts, applause, and gifts are lovely gestures, we can do more for the people who sacrifice so much to keep our communities healthy.
Support & Advocacy
Nurses have spoken: what they really want for International Nurses’ Day is better pay and safety. While we may not have the power to grant them hazard pay, safer nurse-to-patient ratios, and comprehensive violence prevention plans, we can still support some of the major initiatives of nurses’ organizations.
Look for petitions and contact your representatives about these initiatives:
- Petitions for greater protections for nurses & other frontline care workers:
- Petitions for PPE and use of the Defense Production Act to increase production of N95 masks and other needed equipment:
Donate to programs that support frontline workers:
- Frontline Foods, which provides meals from local restaurants to hospital workers. If there isn’t a chapter in your city, there are instructions for starting one.
- Off Their Plate, a similar initiative in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
- Slice Out Hunger, which delivers pizzas nationwide to care centers.
- Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes, which is providing much-needed PPE to frontline workers in New York.
Nurses themselves can sign petitions on a range of subjects on the American Nurses Association site.
You can help on an individual level, too. If you had a great experience with a nurse while receiving care or visiting a loved one, reach out to a nurse’s supervisor to let them know. Clearly stating the value of care can not only brighten a nurse’s day, but also helps increase the level of recognition and respect that the profession deserves.
Caring for Caregivers
If you know a nurse, then you know how hard they work! Show them you care through your actions.
- Drop off a meal on their doorstep.
- Ask if you can run errands or do their grocery shopping for them.
- If they need to self-isolate from their families and you have a space for them to stay – an empty rental space, a college apartment you’re not using, an RV, etc. – offer it for free.
- Ask if you can contribute to their student loan payments. In some states, nurses who default on their federal loans can lose their nursing licenses.
At the very least, check in on them.
- Be mindful of their schedule if you want to call them on the phone or through video chat.
- Avoid bringing up their work or the coronavirus. If they want to talk about it, listen.
- Share a funny story and keep the conversation light – but again, follow their lead.
- If you’re concerned for their mental health, gently encourage them to seek professional help. There are a number of free telehealth options for frontline workers right now, like Project Parachute, Talkspace, Give an Hour, and others.
- Share resources meant to help nurses, like this free course on self-care and burnout prevention from the American Nurses’ Association.
Keep Social Distancing
If you haven’t received nursing care, don’t know any nurses personally, or lack the resources to help in a concrete way, you can still help by staying healthy and safe. Even if your state has few COVID-19 cases and businesses have begun to reopen, continue to take extra precautions. If you can keep yourself – and your community – out of the hospital, your local nurses can focus on providing great care to the patients they already have.
- Stay at home if you’re sick or caring for someone who is sick.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after eating, after using the restroom, upon returning home, after blowing your nose or covering a sneeze, etc.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Wear a mask in public and keep six feet of distance between yourself and others.
- Do your best to keep healthy habits. Get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals, and drink water.
- If you take a maintenance medication, make sure to keep taking it. You can use ScriptDrop’s prescription delivery to avoid leaving the house.
We take nurses for granted all too often, but they are often the major caregivers in communities all over the world. On this special day, keep their sacrifices in mind and do what you can to support them – even if it’s just washing your hands thoroughly. Florence Nightingale would appreciate that.