‘Be Bold’

2020 is over. But the Year of the Nurse spirit continues at SONHS through ongoing involvement with Nursing Now.

The International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife was supposed to be a chance for the nursing profession to celebrate its critical role in society and raise awareness of its impact on a global scale. But there was little time for that as 2020 quickly gave way to the most significant pandemic in a century.

“We certainly are getting the exposure about what nursing is about and why nursing is so desperately needed,” said School of Nursing and Health Studies Dean Cindy L. Munro. “It’s a tough way
to learn that lesson. But if any good
comes from this, maybe that will be it.”

Anticipating the 2020 Year of the Nurse, Munro had pledged the school’s support to Nursing Now, an international campaign committed to raising the status and profile of nursing in order to improve universal health conditions.

In addition, SONHS became a steering committee member of the Nursing Now USA coalition and accepted the Nightingale Challenge, a Nursing Now initiative calling for health care employers to provide leadership training to at least 20,000 early career nurses around the world in 2020 to honor trailblazing nurse Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday.

SONHS implemented a leadership development program that drew emerging nurse leaders from Miami, Mexico, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Noted nurse leader Elizabeth Madigan, CEO of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma), delivered the program’s closing lecture in April 2020. It was broadcast via Zoom in English, with simultaneous Spanish interpretation.

“This is a more critical time than ever to identify nurse leaders,” said Madigan, who shared key findings from the recently released State of the World’s Nursing Report and described how Sigma, the world’s second-largest nursing organization with over 135,000 active members, is supporting the Nightingale Challenge as well.

Describing hard-won lessons from her own career, Madigan explained what being a nurse leader means to her.

“Nursing leadership requires dealing with a complex system of people, and it takes the time and willingness to understand the perspectives of those you are leading—not necessarily to agree, but to know where they are coming from, where the barriers and obstacles are,” she said. “Leadership qualities really start with knowing yourself.”

In a post-program survey of SONHS Nightingale participants, the majority of respondents were extremely satisfied with the leadership program and quality of lectures presented. Additionally, they said the program helped them develop nursing leadership skills.

By the end of the series, over half had identified a leadership project they thought could help them continue developing their nurse leadership skills, and all said they would appreciate additional nursing leadership activities.

“We have to continue helping our Nightingale Challenge participants progress, to be better nurses and better leaders tomorrow,” said Johis Ortega, director of the school’s PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre and associate dean for hemispheric and global initiatives.

Nursing Now invited Ortega, a driver
of international participation in the Nightingale program, to speak on its Nightingale Challenge Employer Webinar panel, “Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” as well as on two other global panels as part of the Nightingale Challenge: One Year On! first anniversary virtual conference held in June.

First, Ortega joined two SONHS Nightingale program participants—Magaly Miranda Ávila, of Chile, and Kevin Rojas, of El Salvador—to discuss the importance of investing in nursing leadership to improve health care and public health. Next, on the international Career Advice Clinic panel, Ortega shared his own story of working as a waiter to pay for nursing school after arriving in the U.S. from Cuba without knowing English.

“Accept challenges, be bold,” advised Ortega, a recently inducted Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “I would recommend adopting the attitude of a leader.”

Nursing Now’s One Year On event
drew over 1,000 participants, with 67 speakers from 21 countries, including Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, a Nursing Now ambassador; Nursing Now co-chairs Lord Nigel Crisp, of the U.K. House of Lords, and former Botswana health minister Sheila Tlou, a nurse specializing in HIV/AIDS and women’s health; and WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“It’s essential that the efforts employers have made in encouraging nurses
and midwives to be leaders extend far beyond the first year of the Nightingale Challenge,” said Ghebreyesus.

According to Nursing Now, 30,000 nurses and midwives are enrolled in leadership development programs around the world. Nursing Now and Nursing Now USA are among the groups that have announced plans to extend nurse recognition efforts like these into 2021 due to the impact COVID-19 has had among the ranks of the profession.

SONHS Dean Cindy Munro is not surprised by how nurses everywhere have taken the lead during the present pandemic. “Courage has always been a defining characteristic of nursing,” she said. “We have a long history of stepping up during pandemics, during wars, during any kind of major disaster. We have a history of doing this, and doing it well.”

An earlier version of this article appeared in the FALL 2020 issue of Heartbeat magazine.