National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nurses celebrate these dates in the workplace every year, in small ways or sometimes not at all. We might share a cake or receive a small gift, a nicety falling near Mothers’ Day, a token of appreciation. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, to honor us, the most trusted profession, on Florence’s 200th birthday.
Sadly, 2020 has become the year of Covid 19. Nurses everywhere are struggling to care for and protect patients, families, communities – literally everyone.
While Hawaii has been blessed with lower levels of morbidity and mortality than other places, we are not unscathed. We soldier on in solidarity with nurses around the world while there is seemingly too little of everything. Too few Nurses, too little equipment, PPE, supplies, medication, and hospital beds. All are all in short supply. Fear brings out the worst in people, who sometimes resort to hoarding, thievery, and profiteering, making shortages worse. Nurses stay focused on our primary concern: The Patient.
The world has ever suffered from contagious disease. It has always been a presence in Post-Contact North America, from the dysentery and fevers in 17th-century settlements to the smallpox and diphtheria of the early 18th century, the yellow fever and cholera of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the polio and influenza of the 20th century. The development of vaccines has spared today’s children from a long list of diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella, tetanus, hpv, rotavirus, hepatitis, h-flu and sometimes seasonal flu). We can protect against yellow fever and malaria, diseases that changed the history of the world. We have medication to treat what we are unable to prevent. Even the fearsome destroyer of the immune system, HIV, is now manageable with medication.
And now we struggle with the new corona virus, Covid-19. While research is ongoing as I write this, there is no specific treatment for Covid-19. Instead, the world relies, to a great degree, on the caring that nurses bring.
I am confident a specific treatment/immunization for Covid -19 is forthcoming. Meanwhile, we must stay safe, stay strong, and care for ourselves as we care for others.
2020 will be remembered as the year of the nurse.
Mahalo for all you do.