Light Bearers: Nurses Week 2021
Widely recognized as one of the founders of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale is often called “the Lady with the Lamp,” because of her practice of visiting those entrusted to her care during the dark hours of the night. Lest we imagine her moving quietly from room to room in a modern hospital, the sick and the dying were haphazardly gathered on straw beds on stone floors in sprawling structures that resembled barracks, infested with vermin and lacking any provision for sanitation.
It was into this environment that Nightingale and her nurses introduced many of the concepts and reforms that laid the foundation for infection control, health promotion, modern nursing, and healthcare as we now understand it. So much light for such a dark situation. She was the Lady with the Lamp, indeed!
Nurses Week (and National Hospital week as well) are anchored on May 12—Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Today is the last day of her bicentennial, the 200 anniversary of her birth in 1820.
It has been a momentous year for nurses, and for healthcare. As COVID-19 engulfed the entire planet, nursing remained the most trusted profession in the United States. For the 19th consecutive year, nursing tops the chart, earning a score of 89% on the 2020 Gallup Honesty and Ethics poll—which is four percentage points greater than the score received in 2019. In the pandemic year, amid some of the most difficult circumstances we’ve ever faced, the Gallup poll found that the top five professions for honesty and ethics were nurses, physicians, grade school teachers, pharmacists, and police officers.
Throughout her life, Florence Nightingale was both philosophical and practical about her work, combining the art and science of nursing with passion, a keen and inquiring mind, and the courage to act on her ideas. She could identify the very day in which she believed she was called by God to serve the sick. I believe she would resonate with the mission of Adventist HealthCare to extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing. How would she call on us to act on our convictions—and to demonstrate what they mean through our practice?
Florence Nightingale wrote, “I think one's feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” Throughout our organization, nurses are doing just that. Armed with the modern equivalent of lamps that bring light to dark places, they are our own light bearers.
Thank you—each of you! For the myriad of gifts and skills you bring to us—thank you! When you have faced overwhelming circumstances with personal courage—even at great personal risk and cost—thank you! When you have cared tirelessly for those we serve, and have adapted to new challenges—thank you!
In your hands, the light from Nurse Nightingale’s lamp has never burned brighter.