Deborah Keller, RN, CMCN, CCM, CPHQ
Chief Executive Officer 

Each year, May 6-12 is designated as National Nurses Week, a time to recognize, celebrate and honor all
the dedicated caregivers who are the heart of healthcare. This year was already shaping up to be
something special since 2020 has been declared to be the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to coincide
with the 200 th birthday of Florence Nightingale.
Then the world changed, and suddenly we all found ourselves with a whole new appreciation for what
being a nurse is all about.
Consider that all that is being asked of most of us in the battle against COVID-19 is to wash our hands, sit
on our couches and eat our home-cooked meals while watching Netflix. And yet, we are frustrated, and
we complain. We want our “normal” back.
Nurses on the front line have a different perspective. They must deal with the ravages of COVID-19 in
strangers every single shift even stepping in to hold a dying patient’s hand while in their other hand they
are holding a mobile phone soothing a family member. Nurse case managers in the hardest hit areas
are seeing their patients who had been getting control of their chronic conditions suddenly die of a
virus. All the while, these nurses also worry about all the same things the rest of us worry about, such as
how to home school their kids, whether their aging parents are doing ok and if the products they’re
purchasing at the grocery store contain traces of the virus.
When most of us are done working from home we shut down our computers and spend time with our
families. When a 26-year-old nurse finishes her shift, she has to completely decontaminate, treat the
bleeding behind her ears and the bruising from 12 hours of wearing a mask. That nurse then has to
decide whether to go home to her baby and take a chance on exposing her family to any residual traces
of COVID-19 or stay away for the duration. Either way, it often feels like a no-win proposition.

Nurses in 2020 are rushing headlong into a virus where there are still many unknowns. Many don’t have
all the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need so they are improvising as best they can and
hoping for the best. Because stopping and waiting until more PPE arrives simply isn’t an option.
With all the social distancing rules in place nurses are being called upon to do even more. In normal
times they can count on families to shoulder some of the load for patient care, such as walking the
patient to the bathroom, pouring a cupt of water, or helping patients adjust their pillows. None of that
help is available now.

They are also going above and beyond in other ways. Here’s a personal example.
Recently my mother-in-law fell as she attempted to navigate some stairs in her home when a tornado
raged through her town. She broke her hip, requiring surgery. My husband and I weren’t able to come
to the room to find out what was going on, and when we called her a young nurse answered.

The nurse asked where we were and we told her we were in the parking lot. She told us to stay there
and she would came out totalk to us. , Still dressed in her PPE, she came to stand in the rain 6 feet from
our car to explain what was happening. Since then she consistently called us with updates and helped
my mother-in-law call us on her cell phone.
They don’t teach that level of compassion in nursing school. It’s just something that is inside of these
special people that proves nursing isn’t a job but a calling.
So yes, this year we have even more reasons than usual to honor these heroic caregivers – although
most of them will probably still be too deeply involved on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight to notice
when their special week occurs. But that shouldn’t stop us from honoring them more than ever this
year.
As someone who was a practicing nurse for many years here’s what I suggest. For us nurses who have
been away from clinical practice for a while, consider preparing yourself to step back in and offer
support. Many states are offering to cover the cost of clinical refresher courses and several nursing
schools are waiving fees. For others, during this National Nurses Week send a few boxes of chocolates
to the nurses at your local hospital. Order a few pizzas or a couple of those giant sandwiches for
everyone to share. Brighten up the nurse’s station with some flowers or colorful balloons.
Believe me, any gesture of kindness – especially one that reminds them that someone is thinking about
their welfare – will be greatly appreciated. It is the least we can do.