The year 2020 was designated as the year of the nurse and midwife. Since 2019 there were many campaigns and initiatives around Nursing Now for the global nursing and midwifery workforce as part of the WHO UHC sustainable health for citizens globally, especially in the underdeveloped and developing countries. Our first World Chief Nurse was appointed in 2017 and has played a key role in promoting the image of our nursing and midwifery profession and the motivation continues even with the current pandemic crisis.
Cases of Covid-19 first emerged in December 2019, when a mysterious illness was reported in Wuhan, China. The cause of the disease was soon confirmed as a new kind of coronavirus, and the infection has spread to a number of countries around the world. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. On 12 March 2020, it was officially announced as a pandemic by WHO.
The surge of the crisis has evoked a new awakening of all the healthcare professionals as many people were dying from the disease. The human is battling with the invisible enemy and vulnerable persons could succumb if they did not protect their own health even with the technologies available in the 21st century.
2020 is a new era of advanced healthcare with major focus on digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), genomics, 3D printing, machine learning, deep learning and robotics among other advances. Although the advances are readily available to all to treat and cure diseases, COVID-19 has proven that one must never be too complacent with the basic requirement of infection control practice which is sanitation and hand hygiene. In 2020 we are preparing to celebrate the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale with global nurses and midwives including other healthcare professionals ever ready to remember Florence for her contribution to healthcare particularly in her role saving lives during the Crimean War. Known as ‘The Angel of Crimea’ or the ‘Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale was a revolutionary figure in nursing history. During the Crimean War, more soldiers were dying from infections than from battle injuries. Nightingale and a team of nurses greatly improved the unsanitary conditions at a British hospital, working night and day to reduce the death count by two thirds. This is our nursing history and will always be referred to in the nursing theories applicable to practice and research in modern nursing science.
Dame Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing’s Chief Executive recorded ‘Modern nursing may be unrecognisable from the work of Florence Nightingale, but she would burst with pride at how far our profession has come”. There was a lot of emphasis around innovation and modern nursing skills to showcase leading to the year of 2020 from different countries around the world. Nevertheless, I believe Florence Nightingale would wish to have her fundamental basic principles of nursing practice which is a clean environment and hand washing to remain the core of our practice in order combat infection, regardless of technologies and other advances. Dame Yvonne Moores, Chair of Florence Nightingale Foundation once commented “we will use Florence Nightingale’s example to challenge outdated practices and let the voice of nurses be heard to drive positive change in the international health policy.” I agree with the words used in Dame Yvonne’s comment and I believe that Florence Nightingale has inspired all the nurses and midwives globally with the strong voices and motivation we want to bring the profession to the next level. We want the world to realise that the fundamental role of nursing is promoting a clean environment and saving life through basic hygiene such as hand washing. We must never underestimate the power of basic nursing skills and care that Florence enforced during her time when she and her team saved thousands of lives. The year of the nurse and the midwife 2020 has seen a different side of what nursing should look like in times of crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic and with this invisible enemy everyone must adhere to the basic rules which Florence Nightingale had once advocated.
The temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital with 4000 additional beds is designated to be completed at the London Excel Centre. Excel Centre is the venue was planned for the Florence Nightingale Foundation Conference 2020 preceding to the celebrate of Florence Nightingale Bicentenary in 2020. It may be coincidental that it could be the test of Florence to our generation of nurses and midwives and healthcare workers who have put so much emphasis on advanced technologies in every aspect of our practice. The year 2020 is the crossroad of technologies/AI vs basic nursing care. This is now our turn to show to our nations that we nurses and midwives — the followers of Florence Nightingale – have the same great determination and strength to save life amidst all the challenges we are facing. The NHS Nightingale Hospital will mark the start of nursing 2020 with the strong element of health and social care collaboration and with the military workforce and the public to combat COVID-19 crisis. Our goal is to save life and every life saved will give a brighter future for the millennium and future generations. Year 2020 may be the turning point for this profession that has suffered severe shortages over the centuries in many countries, and for the healthcare services around the world to invite future Florence fellows to join this honourable profession that is selfless as Florence Nightingale once said:
“Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection.”
This is a powerful message for all the nursing profession that the basic goal is to safeguard the patient and helping to prevent them from getting sick. That is possible using the basic infection control practice while technologies are here to aid the sick by providing mechanical aid to sustain and save life.
We may be facing the heat of the pandemic at this moment, however it has brought out the best in every profession and human kindness to support each other. Social distancing and self-isolation may be one which current generation may find difficult to apply. However, it was the fundamental principle of Florence Nightingale’s historical nursing practice to sustain life. Hand washing with soap and water has never been so much emphasised and challenged until COVID-19 when everyone realised the importance. ‘Hand washing’ even has been adopted in musical and commercial art in the social media as reminder message to the public.
I am ever prouder to be a nurse, as a Florence Nightingale Foundation scholar working alongside other healthcare colleagues to serve the public and nation in this challenging time. “To be ‘in charge’ is certainly not only to carry out the proper measures yourself but to see that everyone else does so too.” (Florence Nightingale’s quote). As a nurse leader and Florence scholar I am urging my fellow nursing colleagues and the wider public to take ownership of our future and collaboratively we can fight this disease and come out stronger and more united globally. The year 2020 is indeed the year of the nurse and midwife because Florence Nightingale has called upon all of us to follow what she once advocated in her time which is to provide a safe and caring environment that promotes patient health and well-being.
Lian Lee (Matron-The RMH NHSFT; FNF Scholar 2018)