2020—The Year of the Nurse

five nurses, different races and genders, with banner for 2020 the international year of the nurse and mid-wife

When the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, little did they know that nurses would be put to the test this year in ways we could only imagine prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses are on the frontline in the battle against the coronavirus disease, working in a broad array of settings to keep people healthy and safe.

Nurses are the largest cadre of healthcare workers in the world, according to the WHO. There are 28 million nurses worldwide. About three million nurses work in the United States.

Aging and Disability Services (ADS) employs a team of nurses who consult with case managers to address health concerns among 12,000+ clients who receive long-term services and supports, and then consult with clients through phone calls and, in some cases, home visits.

In addition, one ADS planning and development specialist is a nurse—Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, BSN. Following is Mary Pat’s reflection on nursing:

Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, MSN, Aging and Disability Services

Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, BSN, Aging and Disability Services

“I’ve been through snowstorms, blizzards, power outages, tornados, and earthquakes. I’ve provided direct patient care, cooked meals, and mopped floors. Having 40+ years of nursing experience, I thought I had all the skills and tools I needed to get me through any emergency, including providing care with only back-up generator power.

“Well, then came COVID-19. During this time, I am most grateful for my training and experience. I am grateful for all the nurses who take care of millions of people worldwide every day. And I am grateful for those courageous and talented colleagues who stepped out of retirement to provide their skills and expertise. We see their selfless gifts of time, talent, and hard work.”

Mary Pat shared information about two nurses who work with community partner agencies—Anne Shields and Carolyn Maurseth.

Anne Shields, RN, MPH, Public Health—Seattle & King County

Anne Shields, RN, MPH, Public Health—Seattle & King County

“Anne Shields, RN, MPH, is a public health practitioner and healthcare consultant. She came out of retirement to volunteer with Public Health—Seattle & King County in their COVID-19 Community Mitigation Branch. Anne is a wonderful collaborator and coordinator and took time out of her very busy schedule to present at the Age Friendly Virtual Civic Coffee Hour in April. To watch the video recording, click here.”

Carolyn Maurseth, RN, currently works as a trauma coordinator in the Highline Medical Center emergency room. She sent the following comments:

“I have been a nurse for 25 years. In all that time, through all the pandemics and virus concerns we have had, I have never really felt scared of what is going on … until now. This COVID-19 virus is so indiscriminate that even with all the info coming out we still don’t know enough to properly care for our patients.

Carolyn Maurseth, RN, Highline Medical Center

Carolyn Maurseth, RN, Highline Medical Center

“I am returning to bedside care after five years at a desk position. For the first time, I am nervous about what I could potentially bring home to my family or contract myself. Now more than ever, I believe that diligence is important.

“I have spoken to my ER colleagues and some of them have guilt for the fact that we are not seeing the surge of patients as they are in New York and that maybe we should go there to help. It is amazing how, as nurses, no matter where we are or where we work, we are always willing to jump in and help our fellow nurses to ease the strain that we know they are feeling.

“I have never been prouder to be a nurse as in this time of uncertainty. I am so in awe of my fellow nurses and I think the world is finally REALLY seeing who we are and what we do. I pray for them every day.”

To drive home Carolyn’s point, Mary Pat shared a news clip about a retired 85-year-old nurse in New Brunswick who went back to work to support residents at a skilled nursing facility. Marg Miller, RN says she had to do it—she was born with a “healing heart.” See the video here.

Mary Pat added, “We are all in need of healing and resilient hearts, now more than ever.”

Candy Goehring, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, DSHS

Candy Goehring, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, DSHS

Finally, in recognition of nurses in long-term care facilities, we heard from Candy Goehring, who directs residential care services for the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, Washington State DSHS:

“I would like to recognize all of the caregivers in our long-term care facilities who continue to dedicate themselves to the needs of our most vulnerable residents. Attending to their medical, nursing, personal care, and emotional wellbeing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is no small feat. It requires the strength and resiliency very few caregivers can comprehend.

“Our facilities are ‘home’ for 70,000 residents and clients who can no longer have visitors. The nurses and other caregivers fill that void for our residents. I would also like to thank and recognize my own staff, regardless of their role, in continuing to provide the quality assurance and oversight of our long-term care facilities. I have a group of brave and talented people willing and ready to serve the residents of Washington. Thanks to all you. We will get through this together.”

Thank you, Mary Pat, Anne, Carolyn, and Candy, for everything you do on behalf of the people of Seattle, King County, and Washington state. Truly, 2020 is the Year of the Nurse!

Please join Aging and Disability Services in thanking all health care professionals, especially nurses and midwives you may know, during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Please consider posting a message about nurses on social media. The primary WHO hashtags are #SupportNursesAndMidwives#Nurses2020, and #Midwives2020.