Dear Florence is an online space to spark conversation on the role of nurses in global health. Named for the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, it seeks to advocate for nurses as leaders in the international health sector and encourage discussion on how the global health world can better leverage nurses’ unique connections to the communities they serve.

Dear Florence is written by Susan Michaels-Strasser, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, senior director of human resources for health (HRH) at ICAP, and is a special initiative to commemorate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

 

March 10th, 2020

Dear Florence,

The light you carried in your oil lamp through hospital wards continues to guide our work in 2020—this year has even been designated as the Year of the Nurse in honor of your 200th birthday!

So much has changed since you’ve been gone that you might not even recognize the world of nursing that you created during the dark days of the Crimean War. Wondrous new technologies connect nurses around the world. With the push of a button, I can share best practices, new ideas, and provide support to friends and colleagues in times of need. These technologies have been used to drive great innovation in the health sector, helping to advance quality of life far beyond what you might have been able to imagine as you paced hospital halls in your nightly rounds with a lamp in your hand. Much that you worked for in your ceaseless patient care advocacy has come to pass. Nurses around the world are champions of holistic approaches to patient care, integrating multiple aspects of family, environment, and culture into health care strategies and approaches. In fact, nurses are now the largest group of health care providers around the world!

But, even with all of these advances, we still face many of the same challenges you did when you first stepped into the military clinics in Istanbul during the Crimean War. While medicines have greatly improved, essential drugs are still in short supply in remote locations and during times of war. In many places, care for patients is compromised due to persistent shortages of medical and nursing staff. Many nurses work in deplorable conditions without running water and enough infection control equipment, such as masks and gloves, to protect themselves.

Right now, we are in the midst of a global pandemic with an outbreak of a new viral illness called COVID-19 that has many of us very worried. We hear every day new stories of health care providers on the frontlines of care and treatment for the new disease who are desperate for clear guidance and adequate protections to be put in place—much like when you advocated for basic hygiene practices and hand washing to be put in place in the military clinics outside of Istanbul during the war. Your insight and vision in those early days of nursing paved the way for nurses like me. I sure wish you were here now to shine a light on the best way forward and remind everyone of how much nurses contribute to the health of people around the world and how much we stand to lose if we don’t fight for their voices to be heard.

You’ve provided us nurses with a shining example of how to fight for our patients in the face of great challenges and old ways of thinking. We have a lot to learn from your persistent spirit!

Until next time,
Susan

 

This article is part of ICAP’s 2020 Year of the Nurse campaign to advocate for nurses as leaders in the international health sector and encourage discussion on how the global health world can better leverage nurses’ unique connections to the communities they serve.

With nurses at the helm advocating for patient-centered approaches in health care and health policy, practical and affordable solutions for the world’s most pressing health challenges are reachable.

Learn more about our work with, and for, nurses on our campaign page, #ThisNurseCan.

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