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Year of the Nurse & Midwife

Year of the Nurse & Midwife

By Don Sadler

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.” This year was chosen to recognize the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, a visionary nurse and leader from the 19th century who is widely regarded as the founder of modern nursing.

It’s fitting that 2020 is designated as The Year of the Nurse when you consider the courageous work of nurses done this year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the eyes of the world are on our profession in a way that we could not have anticipated,” says Annette Kennedy, the president of the International Council of Nurses. “Nurses are in the spotlight, and all around the planet this tragic pandemic is revealing the irreplaceable work of nursing for all to see.”

Nightingale’s Impact on Nursing

Nightingale was an upper-class British woman who led a group of volunteer female nurses to the Crimea in 1854 to help care for British soldiers who were wounded during the fighting. The conditions were brutal as medicines were in short supply and hygiene was being neglected, resulting in mass infections and death.

Many more soldiers were dying from illnesses caused by these conditions than from battle wounds themselves. It’s estimated that Nightingale’s work, including implementation of basic hygiene practices like hand washing, was instrumental in reducing the death rate among wounded British soldiers in the Crimea from 42% to just 2%.

Nightingale earned the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” while serving in the Crimea when a report in The Times described her as a “ministering angel … with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds” among the wounded.

When she returned to England after the war, Nightingale established nurse education programs in British hospitals based on what she learned out in the field. The programs were organized around Nightingale’s beliefs and ideas about how nurses should be educated, which came to be known as “Nightingale Principles.”

The Nightingale Training School was established in 1860 and the first Nightingale-trained nurses started work five years later at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary, which is now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery. In 1859, Nightingale wrote “Notes on Nursing,” which is still considered a classic introduction to the nursing profession.

Nursing from the Civil War to Today

The outbreak of the Civil War in the United States in 1861 created an urgent need for capable nurses to help care for the tens of thousands of sick and wounded soldiers on the battlefield. A total of approximately 20,000 men and women served as battlefield nurses during the Civil War in both the North and the South.

After the war, nurse training programs began to emerge, including a six-month program at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia that graduated its first class in 1869. In 1873, three nurse education programs that were based on the Nightingale Principles were established – this is generally considered to be the beginning of professional nurse education in the U.S.

The success of these “Nightingale schools,” as they were known, led to the establishment of many more nurse training programs in the U.S. throughout the late 19th century. By 1900, between 400 and 800 of them were in operation. Their success and popularity resulted in a pattern of hospital-based nurse education that was common until the mid-20th century.

Meanwhile, the first major professional nursing associations were formed in the 1890s: the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, later known as the National League of Nursing Education; and the Associated Alumnae of the United States, later known as the American Nurses Association.

The vital contributions of nearly 80,000 nurses were widely acknowledged as critical to the Allied forces’ victory in World War II. Many of these nurses transitioned into the modern health care system that emerged in the U.S. after the war, though severe nursing shortages were common as the work was extremely demanding and the pay was low.

By the mid-20th century, nursing largely began to eliminate the racial and gender segregation that was common. This opened up equal educational, professional and employment opportunities for more nurses. Specialty types of advanced practice nursing also started to emerge in the 1960s, including perioperative nursing.

Recognizing Top Perioperative Nurses

To celebrate The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, OR Today has received submissions throughout this year recognizing perioperative nurses for their excellent practice and devotion to nursing. Here are a few of the perioperative nurses who were recognized by OR Today readers:

  • Lisa Van Deer, RN, CNOR, Surgery Manager, VanDiest Medical Center
    Lisa was recognized by her coworker Robin Meyer, who stated: “Lisa was by my side the entire time we were heavy in COVID-19. She came to work every day with a smile on her face and kept all of the instrumentation clean and sterilized. Lisa also came up with a plan to get the N-95 masks re-sterilized to keep all the staff safe until supplies came in.”
  • Anne Mørk, MHCDS, MS, RN, Director of Surgical Services, UW Health-University Hospital
    Anne was nominated by her coworker Ann White, who stated: “COVID-19 has shattered the care of delivery as we know it, yet Anne remains positive and continues the relentless journey to move UW Health forward during the recovery phase. She works long days and her performance never wavers. Anne is a superb nursing role model and mentor and a natural leader.”
  • Nancy Walters, RN, BSN, CNOR, CIC, Christus Imperial Calcasieu Surgical Center
    Nancy was nominated by coworker Sherry White, who stated: “Nancy was my OR supervisor in the beginning of my career and an awesome mentor who inspired everyone in her department to become the best OR nurse they could be. She never hesitated to share her knowledge of the OR and encourage and defend her staff in times of conflict.”
  • Vivian Watson, consultant, ORDx+Rx: Solutions for Surgical Safety (retired)
    Vivian was nominated by Sharon McNamara, who stated: “Vivian’s name brings feelings of love and compassion for patients and colleagues. She served on the AORN Board and was AORN’s only Ombudsman for more than 10 years. Vivian comes from a sharecropper’s daughter background, was born with a cleft lip has overcome much to be a nurse.”
  • Amy Lammers, RN, Promedica, Bay Park Hospital
    Amy was nominated by an anonymous coworker, who stated: “I’m nominating Amy because of her hard work and dedication to treating patients infected with the coronavirus. She has been an RN for 25 years and is currently working in an ICU of a hospital that was only treating patients with COVID-19 during the peak of the pandemic. Amy sees her role in defeating this virus as crucial to the safety of her family, friends and everyone in the world.”
  • Sue Olson, Interim Assistant Nurse Manager, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    Sue was nominated by Alicia Rock-Cleppe, who stated: “Sue has always been the nurse who inspires me the most. She is patient and kind, extremely knowledgeable and the true embodiment of an excellent OR nurse. Thank you, Sue, for inspiring me to be a better nurse and a better person.”

OR Today joins in congratulating each of these outstanding nurses – and all the perioperative nurses who demonstrate their devotion to the profession each and every day.

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