The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic will long be remembered as an event that disrupted many aspects of life. Health care and specifically nurse leaders have been at the center of problem solving, strategizing, collaborating, and healing around the nation and the world. At the time this issue went to print, the United States and other countries were amid the winter surge. Waiting patiently for a vaccine, leaders were challenged to balance the need for caregiver safety, the economic reality, and the care needs of all in their communities.
However, the tenor of the winter surge is different from that of the spring. The difference is how much has been learned about caring for the virus, caring for the patients and their families, and caring for the workforce. The stories in this issue illustrate the resilience of nurse leaders to rise to and meet any challenge. There are consistent themes of flexibility and commitment to collaborate with all constituents. There is a sense that everyone was “all in,” on finding solutions. Nurse leaders found themselves planning for the unknown, making decisions with information they had at the time, and pivoting frequently with updated priorities. For many, it was a time to demonstrate innovation leadership.
New York was one of the earliest and hardest hit states at the beginning of the pandemic and their Governor was a leader in his response. Fiore-Lopez, CNO, of a community hospital on Long Island tells of the directive to submit a surge plan to the state leaders. Phases 1 to 3 of this plan were implemented including opening beds on closed units, converting post–anesthesia care unit and ambulatory beds for inpatient use, and retrofitting and reconstructing units to intensive care unit level. While they did not need to fully implement phase 4, opening an alternative site was accomplished in Boston as Ives Erikson reports. More than 1000 beds for COVID-19–positive, non–acute care, and homeless patients who were cared for in the Boston Convention Center. This article highlights the leadership and collaboration that were needed to make this fully functional in just 10 days.
Also, in this issue are articles that describe programs in support of the staff. One, by Krofft and Stuart outline a mentorship program for newly hired RNs in a Midwest community hospital. Many schools of nursing were forced to shut down their acute care clinical experiences for the end of the 2020 academic year. This plan supported the new graduate nurse through a mentoring program aimed at increasing RN retention. In another project, Thompson and Kusy examined leader behaviors during the crisis and the effects of these behaviors on their teams.
While the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end, not everything will go back to the old way, nor should they. This pandemic has highlighted the multiple cracks in our profession and our health system and those must be addressed as we move forward. There have been many lessons and changes in practice and preparedness that will be maintained. Nurses in every role have learned that the limits of their spirit and commitment might be tested but not surpassed. This issue highlights some of the learnings we can take forward into the new system because the worst thing we can do now is to go back to where we were.
—Mary O'Connor, PhD, RN, CENP, FACHE, FAONL
Notre Dame of Maryland University Baltimore, Maryland
—Dan Weberg, PhD, MHI, RN
Head of Clinical Innovation, Trusted Health Clinical Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University College of Nursing