HEALTH CORNER: Dare to Care! | Elizabeth Simon Ph.D, RN, ANP-BC
When the World Health Assembly voted in May 2019 to name year 2020 as the year of Nurses and Midwives, no one realized that it will be a year of unexpected and unsolicited demand for nursing leadership in the midst of a global pandemic. However, many youngsters are fearful to step into the nursing profession because of this catastrophe or are reconsidering their choices. Conversely, there is a history of bravery and boldness demonstrated by young women and men from the very beginning of modern nursing. To be specific, the year 2020 coincided with the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Nightingale used the crisis of Crimean war to give birth to a new caring profession. She facilitated public visibility of Nursing as a vocation by illuminating a lamp to avert the darkness of suffering and misery of that 4000-bed war barrack then the largest in the world. She was the passionate advocate for frequent hand-washing to control the spread of infectious diseases using data for evidence, based practice. Statisticians honor Florence Nightingale as a passionate and efficient statistician as her seven different statistical methods explored, compared, evaluated and presented outcome data. Her unparalleled leadership skills reached far corners of the world even to India in reforming the health care of the British Army as well as health of the general public through her surveys.
Florence Nightingale’s work was successful mainly because she had a “Calling”, a call to service, heard voices on many occasions to which she responded like Mary did. In her youth Nightingale said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”. Later in 1886 with a night nurse Nightingale prayed: “May we all answer the angel as Mary did: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word.” Nightingale was influenced by John Wesley and David Livingstone; however, she said it was John Abbott’s book “The corner-stone” that “converted” her in 1836. In sum, the far reaching of Influence Nightingale was because of her dedication as the servant/ the handmaiden of the Lord following the footsteps of the Master, in the commission of healing the sick.
There are many parallels between Crimean crisis and the current Covid Pandemic. Consequently, the United Kingdom, recognizing her leadership in combating infectious diseases, constructed 7 temporary hospitals for Covid patients and called them “ Nightingale Hospitals”. Even Now her influence is present as an influential servant leader. Even then she did not succumb to social pressures, or environmental pressures to retreat from her calling. God’s special protection was with her and besides many heroes of the “healing halls” even today. That is why according to ICN’s October 2020 report that nearly 1500 nurses died in 44 countries out of the world 195 countries demonstrating a low case fatality ratio nearly 0.5% only. It reemphasizes a special miraculous protection for this caring crew.
I don’t believe anyone reading this had a long life to remember the worst global pandemic: the Spanish Flu (1918-1920), which infected 500 million and killed 50 million. However, the mortality rate among US and British Nurses during that worst pandemic was only 0.54%, when antibacterial, antiviral agents and vaccines were not available. The data assuage fear, encourages a sense of dedication, and a call of duty and assurance that God gives shelter and safeguard to those who care for the sick. Christian Nurses from Kerala became a role models to fellow Hindu and Muslim women to come out of the cultural barriers like Nightingale to care for the sick in Indian Society. Even though Kerala Nurses are considered the best by others, their own state’s private institutions have not honored them with monetary rewards or professional status.
Nevertheless, my fellow nurses, do not be discouraged! Similar to Crimean war and Spanish flu in 2020, COVID brought opportunities for nurses to lead the care team. For example, many surgeons, in western world, as the surgical units were closed during pandemic, stepped in with ICU nurses to take care of the sick, then wrote about their experience in helping nurses round the clock. Nurses may not get that recognition for their hard and challenging work always. Jesus our Master did not get it at all, instead He was despised, spit upon, bruised and wounded. In the midst of all, even the last moment, Jesus ministered to the thief on the cross. Do not be afraid to face the challenges, I have testimonies of divine protection amidst alarming situations. I am sure you have too. Blood of Jesus will cover you as you go forgetting everything, focusing on the call of duty of the mission of healing. You are a servant leader like your master who washed His disciple’s feet and showed an excellent example. Meditate on that and you will gain strength to your hands, swiftness to your feet, compassion to your heart, brightness to your brain and sweetness to your words. Recognition and visibility will follow you if you do not seek it. Future nurses! do not be afraid to take this great vocation, a wonderful profession that offers you professional satisfaction more than material reward. Taking care of the sick was a mission of the early church and Phoebe was the Visiting nurse who supervised the care offered by local churches. Likewise, Florence Nightingale, Nurses during Spanish Flu and current Covid are true heroes who made differences as servant leaders and they did not capitulate to the circumstances.
Covid-19 Pandemic has brought back prayer before work at the Nurses Station even in very liberal states and institutions. It is evident that fear necessitated dependency in the master Physician: Lord Jesus Christ. To maintain that environment of peace, stewardship, and productivity, nurses as leaders should walk in the shoes of a servant with the number one goal to serve. When they follow the footsteps of Lord Jesus Christ, their servant attitude will be developed, equipped to listen, empathize, persuade, develop awareness of others, and heal like Jesus who lived as a model of the servant leader.
Have a blessed Nurses Day, Every Day!