Reflections on the New Age of Nursing
The year 2020 was designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, to commemorate the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale and recognize the contributions of nurses to health care. No one could have known the threats to health that would change the course of this year; but it has been evident that nurses, guided by the legacy of Nightingale herself, are critical to addressing them.
Nursing has a historically important role in fighting infectious disease. Nightingale served as a nurse in the Crimean War during the cholera epidemic. In addition to caring for wounded soldiers, she approached health challenges as an administrator, statistician, and scientist to improve nursing practice and infection control. As she assessed the environment to identify its impact on health, Nightingale discovered that more soldiers were dying from infection than injury. With appropriate intervention and healthier environments, she was able to save more lives.
The new age of nursing reflects the holistic scope of Nightingale’s approach to improving health and well-being. We see her legacy in modern practices used to fight the physiologic pandemic of COVID-19, and it is also apparent in nursing interventions for health disparities caused by the sociologic pandemic of structural racism. The inclusion of social and environmental health determinants in research, prevention, and care are consistent with the approaches Nightingale pioneered and the principles that guided her. Born in 1820 and credited as the founder of nursing, she is a timeless inspiration for those who aspire to improve health for all.
The School of Nursing (SoN) has an opportunity and a responsibility to meet challenges faced in the profession and society by educating nurses who are truly prepared to transform and lead in the delivery of equitable care. As dean, I see our potential to do so. Despite the gravity of these times, I believe you will find hope and pride inside the pages of ForwardNursing as you read about SoN faculty, students, and alumni who have followed their passion as nurses to make a difference in the lives of others.
This issue of ForwardNursing is a celebration of nursing and the legacy of Florence Nightingale. It features Badger nurses who change lives through research, education, practice, advocacy, volunteerism, policy making, and more. I am proud of the examples highlighted: our alumni working on the front lines of the pandemic and SoN researchers studying the role of “place” through the lens of environmental and planetary health, to discover how it contributes to health disparities.
They are samples of the countless stories of dedicated, skilled nurses who call the SoN home.
Though it is not what we planned, the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife has made clear that the high level of trust in nurses to protect and improve health is well placed. I honor and appreciate the role of all nurse scientists, educators, clinicians, and others in the profession who address complex needs in our society.
Linda D. Scott