2020: The Year of the Nurse

Header image for the article 2020: The Year of the Nurse Credit: DYLAN CHARETTE
Nursing has come a long way, and there is more in store for years to come.

This January marks the beginning of a new decade, and hopefully new achievements and successes for all of us. In addition to stepping into a new year with new beginnings, 2020 has been deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” to honour the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, set the stone for the philosophical background nurses follow today. Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory is defined as “the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery,” according to nurseslabs.com. Her approach to nursing changed the world, especially when her practice was enforced in times of war.

An article titled “Florence Nightingale” by history.com editors describes the events of Nightingale’s service that made her a hero. During the Crimean War, Nightingale and a group of female nurses were asked to travel to British-based hospital in Constantinople and treat the British soldiers who were fighting the Russians in the war. The poor conditions at the army field hospital were the cause of the many deaths of the soldiers.

Navigator. Londons student lifestyles magazine.

Nightingale advocated for better living conditions for the ill that resided in the hospital and made sure the environment surrounding her patients were more favourable instead of detrimental to their health. She came back a hero for her efforts in the war and rewarded for her services.

Nightingale was sought for her advice on nursing for the civil war and directly trained Linda Richards who became the first nurse in the U.S. and nursing pioneer in Japan. Nightingale used her rewards from the government to establish the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. Her dedication to the nursing practice and betterment of the patient’s environmental conditions made her an emblem to the nursing community, revered to this day for all her achievements.

Nursing has come a long way since then, and is recognized as one of the most trustworthy professions in Canada according to Reader’s Digest, Global News, and Huff- Post. Today, nurses have a wide range of practice. From the pediatric floor, the geriatric floor, the OR, to your home, nurses’ skills are used in multiple health care settings to meet the needs of all kinds of patients.

The art of nursing has changed drastically in the past 200 years to adapt to modernized needs, but its roots remain strong and follow the teachings of Nightingale to foster and nurture the environmental conditions surrounding patients to increase their well-being.

Taking a closer look at Fanshawe’s nursing community, we have experienced professors who have seen, first-hand, great changes in the nursing practice.

Carolyn Rivard and Lorena M. Bonilla are professors in the nursing department at Fanshawe College. Both have many years of nursing experience and shared their insight on the changes they have seen in the nursing community.

“I think the greatest change has been in the rise of research in nursing. When I began my practice, research utilization was minimal. Now we base our practice on evidence- based care. This encourages us to look critically at how we practice and aids us in providing the best outcome for all clients,” said Rivard.

The nursing practice has thrived from research and evolved to adhere to the needs of our communities. Rivard continues to talk about the benefits that arose from increased research for nursing.

“The research has solidified our place in the world of professional practice and amongst other health care providers,” said Rivard.

Media has portrayed nursing in many ways, most of which in a negative or demeaning light. However, the standards for nursing and the importance of it, in reality, is slowly changing people’s perception of the profession for the better.

Professor Bonilla has been practicing nursing for 25 years. She spoke to me about how the changes in nursing education have helped the practice thrive.

“Starting in 2002 more or less, all Canadian RNs were expected to get nursing degrees to practice. Nurses have acquired more scope of practice and the ability to do more, such as skills and health promotion, through education,” explained Bonilla.

Although there have been many good changes that have bettered the nursing practice, change comes with challenges of keeping the roots of nursing intact. Professor Rivard shared her concern for the future of nursing.

“My fear for nursing is that the essence of nursing will be lost as more and more technology is introduced. Clients need and want a nurse who understands their particular situation and who is willing to work with them to attain better health,” said Rivard.

With more research and proper education for nurses, the practice has become a recognized profession that is respected and trusted. But there is always room for improvement; the world continues to change each day and nurses continue to adapt to the needs of the local and global community. What do we want from our future nurses?

“The ultimate goal is to achieve health for all everywhere on earth. The world is also our patient, so we are concerned with its deteriorating health due to climate change,” professor Bonilla replied.

The nursing profession goes beyond the individual patient, the nursing duty is concerned with the well-being of the world we live in. Nightingale’s environmental theory, mentioned before, only proves how important it is to take care of the environment and well-being of the planet because it is our home. If our home is not healthy, then we will not be either.

“Nurses are at the forefront of health care on a global level, and in many developing countries that don’t have a lot of resources, people only see nurses for their health care needs,” explained Bonilla.

Professor Bonilla stressed the importance of nurses coming together to aid in the health needs of the world regardless of the resources they have available to them.

“That is what the nursing practice is; it’s a science and art, it is all about caring for others regardless of context,” she concluded.

As a nursing student myself, I value the rich history of healers we look up to and learn from. These nurses worked in stressful conditions, during wars and plagues, and managed to help save lives daily. I hope that my fellow nursing students, midwives, and I, can live up to the nursing Nightingale hoped for.

Nightingale said in one of her personal journals dated in 1870 that “it will take 150 years for the world to see the kind of nursing I envision…” Well, it’s been 150 years, and I think that she would be proud.