National Nurses Week: A Reflection on Leaders in Nursing
Nurses have always responded to needs of the day beginning with Florence Nightingale, who believed God called her to care for soldiers in the Crimean war. Nursing care is as old as humanity yet nursing became a distinct discipline when Nightingale, known as the “Lady with the Lamp,” made rounds in the soldiers’ camps caring for their wounds and supporting them in illness. National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale.
Crisis Invites Opportunity
Following Nightingale’s example, nurses respond in times of crisis on an individual level as well as globally, providing care by addressing social needs as well as physical needs. Rural healthcare in Colorado in the early 1960’s was experiencing a crisis due to diversion of resources to the Vietnam War and poverty was a major problem. Physicians were becoming more and more specialized in their training, leaving areas of primary care under-served, particularly in rural settings.
A nurse leader, Loretta Ford saw the need and took action. She is credited as the nurse who changed healthcare delivery by moving the role of nurse practitioner forward, designing the first Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program in the country at the University of Colorado. The uniqueness of this model is that nurse practitioners are developed as extensions of the patient rather than extensions of the physician.
Nursing is Multidisciplinary
Nursing has struggled to define its role as distinct from a purely medical occupation. In a multidisciplinary fashion nurses work shoulder to shoulder with physicians, social workers and other professionals with similar goals: to bring healing, improve quality of life and well-being of humanity.
Vernice D. Ferguson
Challenging the thinking of the day another nurse leader, Vernice D. Ferguson, understood that a leader can never fear change. As a strong advocate for equality, she became the first African–American woman to hold the position of Chief Nursing Officer in more than one institution. From 1980 to 1992 she was the assistant chief medical director for nursing programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this position she was responsible for the largest organized nursing service in the world, with more than 60,000 nursing personnel. In her many areas of leadership she demonstrated her belief that each discipline has unique gifts to contribute, especially nurses.
Ask a [Student] Nurse
Most nurses would say they feel “called” to their profession. Considering the many areas of crisis in healthcare that we currently face, once again we can look to nurses for creative solutions. No other discipline is as strategically situated as nurses are to observe and improve health care practices and policies as we provide care and improve the lives of our patients. It was once said, “If you have a question, ask a nurse.” Now there are hundreds of “Ask a Nurse” hotlines available to guide patients through the complicated and often confusing healthcare network. Not only can we “ask a nurse,” I would like to expand this thinking to include student nurses.
Thank the Nurses in Your Life
It is an awesome challenge to educate future nurses. As an instructor in the Nursing Program at Front Range Community College, I share the vision for healthcare improvement and passion for excellent education with my colleagues. In this rapidly changing health care climate, we remain dedicated to providing our students with the knowledge and skills required as professionals to provide safe and effective patient-centered care and the skills to be leaders for change in the future.
During this week that celebrates nurses, who are the nurses in your life that you’d like to thank?