We can't let Nurses Week 2020 go by during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife and Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday without a treatise on what she would think about modern nursing. She's been quoted as saying that it would take 150 years for the world to see the kind of nursing she envisioned. That was in the 1870s, 150 years ago. Would she be pleased now?
She believed in many of the practices we follow today: data-based decision-making, measured outcomes, cleanliness, veterans' care, education, and population health. Imagine this remarkable woman in Victorian England who was a social reformer, a statistician, and a nurse! Smithsonian Magazine wrote about “The Defiance of Florence Nightingale” and how she rankled commanding officers who tried to stand in her way. The power of one.
She would be thrilled about the university-level nursing education we have today, on par with other disciplines, along with the nurse scientists and researchers in both academic and practice settings. The data analytics we now have at our disposal would bring her great joy. She'd also be pleased with current work environments (the polar opposite of the wards in Crimea). I can visualize her as a meticulous Magnet® appraiser, Pathway to Excellence® document evaluator, or Joint Commission surveyor, can you?
She would be surprised that healthcare disparities and the importance of social determinants of health are still critical worldwide issues, considering she was fervently addressing them 150 years ago. She would also probably be disturbed by the fact that we still haven't fully embraced just cultures in our organizations. Her foretelling quote, “how very little can be done under the spirit of fear,” warned of the significance of psychologically safe environments. It's shameful that we continue to struggle with “shame and blame” as an approach to human error.
One other area that would dumbfound her is rounding, or lack thereof. As the “lady with the lamp,” she invented night rounding. We keep coming up with clever initiatives and improvement projects to hardwire rounding—whether it's hourly staff rounds, bedside report, or leader rounding—yet we haven't made it habitual practice.
We see the power of one in Florence Nightingale's work and vision. Let's not forget all the other nursing legends who've risen above with their passion to change the future. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. Dorothea Dix fought for the rights of the mentally ill. Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood. Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first Black nurse in the US, creating the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. I could go on, and please don't be upset over all the legendary icons I didn't mention, they're too numerous!
It seems that lived values plus determination plus brainpower equals all that's great in our past, present, and future. The art and science we've developed and the historic breadth of our influence on health would definitely please Florence. The contributions of one may make the news, and the contributions of all move the needle. Who among us hasn't been influenced by someone or been the one who made a difference? I suspect all of us.
Join us on page 32 as we celebrate National Nurses Week and International Nurses Day with “Nurses Transforming Systems of Care: The Bicentennial of Florence Nightingale's Legacy.”
Editor's note: This Nurses Week editorial was written before our world changed. None of us ever imagined what healthcare would be in a world ravaged by a global pandemic. I'm strengthened by our courageous nurses and leaders like yourself who are fearless warriors in this fight. “Thank you” is an understatement, and heartfelt.