The current environment and the experience during this COVID era more than ever usher in a need not only to recognize the stalwart role of nurses the world over, but to establish priority areas on which the profession should concentrate in order to prepare for future human development. This as I understand it, is the message of this year's International Nurses Day theme, ‘A Voice to Lead: A Vision for Future Health Care’. It resonates in the significance we place on May 12, the 201st birth anniversary of the legendary nurse, Florence Nightingale.
GOFAD was honoured last year when Sir George Alleyne presented the International Nurses Day blog Nursing Now and Forever in which he aptly made the point that Covid-19 brought into the sharpest relief one of the most critical roles of nurses that sometimes seems to be taken for granted. He referred to the discussions of “the technical advances in the profession and the loud and proper cries for them to take leadership roles in for example primary health care and universal health coverage”.
Over the past year, the role of nurses globally has been amplified as the number coronavirus cases (based on WHO tracker) ballooned from 5,934,936 to 160,074,267 and the number of deaths from 367,166 to 3,325,260. By having to cope with the burdens of this exponential increase in caseloads, nurses are often the health care providers with the most patient contact, those who are 'comforters in chief' and who are viewed by patients frequently as more approachable. They are at the heart of health communications. They are patient advocates. This means that nurses are more likely to encounter patients spreading misinformation, which gives them a special opportunity to intervene. But this pandemic has thrown so much more at them. It placed increasing demands on them, creating physical strain for frontline workers and psychological strain for those losing patients, co-workers and loved ones. It has led to the interpretation from the 19th annual Gallup Poll (April 2021) that in the USA, the pandemic has definitely taken a toll on medical frontline workers. “It isn’t necessarily what they signed up for”.
Yet for the 19th year in a row, according to this recent Gallup Poll, nurses were ranked as the most trusted and ethical of 15 professions. In fact, even as they came through the pandemic—their toughest year in the survey’s history—nurses’ approval rating rose another 4 percent.
Building a New Vision for the Health Workforce
McKinsey and Company: 2021 Future of work in Nursing— our newest survey of 400+ frontline medical frontline workers resulted in arriving at four broad strategies for building a new vision for the health work force:
The bottom line is that these strategies are applicable widely. In many countries, including those in the developing world, hospitals accelerated the uses of tech devices at the bedside that could integrate with patient records such as tablets for communication, and other forms of virtual monitoring. As a result, these developments could lead simultaneously to other opportunities for nurses to provide remote patient care in the future; have cost effective use of technologies rather than just having them as additional costs and burdens that nurses need to deal with every day; and delivering inputs to any aspect of a health system that affect their work: from hiring of team members, to ordering and use of supplies. (see attached)
The changing dynamics of COVID-19 on healthcare systems are relevant to institutions training the community of nurses in a variety of roles. Some undertaking original research to help clients understand and navigate a complex, ever-evolving regulatory landscape. Others working in professional development to help colleagues map out careers and build capabilities. Yet others serving in the social sector community practices and outreach in collaboration with physicians and other clinicians, like pharmacists. These are tasks that can be done in multiple ways to have impact on people’s lives, either one-on-one with patients and families or at a larger-scale at the systems level.
But there is another compounding factor which brings the softer skills of nurses into play. Bogus claims about the virus, masks and vaccines have exploded since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic a year ago. Journalists, public health officials and tech companies have tried to push back against the falsehoods, but much of the job of correcting misinformation has fallen to the world’s front-line medical workers.
Conclusions Voices with Visions
I end with three random quotes that summarize the essence of how voices of nurses may shape the vision for the future that we celebrate.
“As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may not remember your name but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
Nursing is not for everyone. It takes a very strong, intelligent, and compassionate person to take on the ills of the world with passion and purpose and work to maintain the health and well-being of the planet.” – Donna Wilk Cardill, Nurse consultant, McKinsey
Nursing for the future will be a dynamic and exciting endeavor. I urge you: embrace new clinical technology, focus on professional development and seek out opportunities to increase knowledge and gain expertise. You are our champions for a better, healthier future and together we continue on our path to provide comprehensive quality health care. Again. I salute you! Sandra Barrow Chief Nursing Officer (GP)Barbados
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.