I am honored every May to reference National Nurses Week. We too often do not follow the advice we freely give to others—“toot your own horn.” Many world organizations have extended the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife into 2021 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased visibility of nurses' contributions. The International Council of Nurses announced an appropriate theme for International Nurses Day, which falls on Florence Nightingale's birthday on May 12, Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A Vision for Future Healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2021 the Year of the Health and Care Workers – Protect. Invest. Together. WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted, “We need to collectively strengthen our investment in training healthcare personnel to end the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve health for all.”1 The original premise of the designation of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife was that achieving universal healthcare for all in the world would not be possible without the work of nurses and midwives in their communities, and universal coverage was the road to a healthier world. Nurses have unquestionably been the core of healthcare—past, present, and future. Nurses can lead the way when given the opportunity.
Public health emergency
During the pandemic, NPs enjoyed the latitude to practice without having to plow through multiple hurdles, extraneous bureaucratic paperwork, and unnecessary practice restrictions because of executive orders issued by state governors. These special authorizations increased access to quality healthcare for innumerable patients, but they all have end dates, which are opportunely being extended as long as the public health emergency (PHE) continues. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has extended the PHE four times through the course of the pandemic. We acknowledge that a PHE declaration impacts health systems in addition to the providers of direct patient care. Because NP licenses and/or certifications are regulated by individual states, will governors follow suit and cancel all executive orders related to NP practice when HHS rescinds the PHE declaration? Going back to the status quo is unacceptable. The vision is full practice authority (FPA) for NPs in every state. It is worth quoting Nelson Mandela again here as I did in my January 2021 editorial that discussed vision with action, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” The founder of the NP movement, Dr. Loretta Ford, is credited stating, “I didn't think that we were involved in great change...but then change became the name of the game.”
Change: The name of the game
NP students and NPs in their early careers are the future of advanced practice nursing. Students preparing for a baccalaureate degree can join the well-established National Student Nurses' Association, which is devoted to developing advocates and leaders among future RNs. In 1997, the American Nurses Association designated May 8 of National Nurses Week as (prelicensure) National Student Nurse Day. A welcoming and mentoring environment in any organization NP students choose to join will encourage interest and activity in work for change. Students learn and aspire from example. They are like children again, watching, anticipating, and hoping for guidance, security, and a clearer path from the NPs who came before them. Make the “game” meaningful. Provide the example and tools they need to bring change that moves all forward to FPA. Happy Nurses Week!
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief [email protected]
1. Nursingnetwork. World Health Organization extends Year of the Nurse to 2021. 2021. https://kentucky-nurses.nursingnetwork.com/page/94551-year-of-the-nurse-2020