SEATTLE — Wednesday, May 6 marked the beginning of National Nurses Week, and perhaps there’s never been a more fitting time to celebrate the profession that has been on the frontlines of the pandemic fight.
Nurses, along with all our other healthcare heroes, having been putting themselves in danger to aid those stricken with COVID-19 for months. Taking a moment to recognize nursing’s contributions to saving lives, now and throughout history, is the very least that we can do.
2020 was also named the Year of the Nurse, as it is the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale.
“Florence is really credited for professionalizing nursing,” said June Altaras with MultiCare Health System. “She really brought standards of care to nursing -- our ethical standards, our code of conduct standards – and turned us from a service industry into a professional practice.”
Nurses Week in the past has leaned into the history of nursing. This year, we are focusing in on how nurses have stepped up during the pandemic, risking their own wellbeing for the safety of others.
“One of the main attributes of our profession is altruism, and I have certainly seen that show up every single day with our nurses -- putting our fellow human beings above themselves, above the fear they may have for their own personal health,” Altaras said.
“Probably what nurses are more worried about is the concern of harming a family member or loved one by virtue of taking care of others, so altruism is something I see every day with our nurses. Once they have that courage and fortitude to show up and take care of others, they bring their intelligence and their critical thinking and, just as important in nursing, caring and compassion for those people we take care of.”
By nature of the job, nurses face death on the regular. But the pandemic has taxed everyone’s ability to comprehend the human toll it has wreaked across the globe, particularly those dealing with it every day.
“I've had a long career and I have never seen this level of anxiety and fear in our conditions, and it's very real because this is a pandemic we don't have any experience,” Altaras said. “We've been very focused on how we can support our teams emotionally and psychologically. We bring our behavioral health specialists in to help them talk through things. Really paying attention to psychological safety for our clinicians during this time has been a big focus of ours.”
Normally a time of celebration, this year’s Nurses Week saw more subdued commemorations – virtual gatherings, giveaways of inspirational books, and other events that meet social distancing guidelines.
At MultiCare, nurses get to choose a nursing theorist, Nightingale being one option, to represent how they want to be guided going forward.
“It's a really great way for our nurses to own their nursing practice and make decisions about nursing within our organization,” Altaras said. “We feel that's very empowering for them and we're excited about that process.”