From the Desk of Deb Burton

May 03, 2019

Happy Happy National Nurses Week!  We celebrate Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12 and the entire week is dedicated to recognizing and honoring all nurses. This year’s national theme is “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate.” At Providence. St Joseph Health, it is “40,000 Reasons to Celebrate!” 

Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing at the end of 19th century. Considered the first biostatistician, Florence was a brilliant strategist, a compassionate presence, a visionary and courageous leader, a skilled data scientist, and an unwavering champion for what we now know as highly reliable care—establishing and enforcing strict procedures and standards that could not vary. In 1855 Florence was sent by the British Army to care for wounded and sick soldiers during the Crimean War. At the time, more soldiers were dying in “hospitals” than on the battlefield. Thanks to her strict use of hand-washing and hygiene practices while caring for wounded soldiers, Nightingale and her team reduced the death rate from 42% to 2%--despite squalid conditions, poor nutrition, widespread epidemics and almost no available technology or therapeutic resources.

“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.”
F. Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was both brilliant and compassionate. But what compelled her to lead and persevere were her courage and deep faith. She took on the entire British Army command for neglecting the hospitals and wounded soldiers, she established the profession itself, and she started the first nursing school.

How should PSJH nurses honor Florence Nightingale’s legacy in 2019? I propose we focus on courage. Doing the right thing for our patients, especially the poor and vulnerable, takes much more than being really smart and compassionate.  So how are you doing in these courageous acts?

  • Courage to say “No”: When something is not right; when you know about or observe unsafe or harmful acts, bullying or intimidation, unethical or illegal behavior, disrespect or discrimination, are you speaking up every time?
  • Courage to say “Yes”: Are you challenging yourself, moving out of your comfort zone at times? Are you accepting new assignments and learning new skills? Do you have plan to advance your career, return to school, try something new? How does a leadership role sound to you?
  • Courage to ask for help: As accountable professionals and advocates, we take our roles and practices very seriously. And that must include knowing what we don’t know, not being competent at everything and having the courage to say, “I’m not comfortable doing this,” “I’d prefer not to do this alone,” or “I haven’t done this in a while, I need a refresher.” Even for our most senior clinicians, practice and evidence change so fast that no one can be a competent expert at everything. Revealing that you don’t know or don’t feel competent isn’t just courageous, it is a fundamental safety precaution.
  • Courage to speak up: Are you good at advocating, even when what you are saying (respectfully, and with sound evidence) isn’t popular or well received?
  • Courage to take risks: Ironically, risk taking can be considered unsafe or feel uncomfortable. Trying new things, advocating for those without a voice or, respectfully, standing your ground can feel risky. If you are ambivalent about what to do, consider Florence Nightingale and ask yourself, “WWFND?”
  • Courage to “own your practice”: We are independent accountable professionals, period. That means managing our own careers and competency, accepting responsibility for outcomes of our care, and practicing to our full legal scope of practice.  Our patients deserve nothing less.
  • Courage to take care of yourself: Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, Disengagement—call it what you want. Because of the very nature of our work and what we are licensed to do, every single nurse and other clinician is at risk. Know the signs, figure out how to care for yourself proactively, and look for warning signs in others. Remember, burnout and compassion fatigue are expected at times; identify warning signs early, reach out to others, ask for help. Remember, these are natural byproducts of caring for others for a living. Watch out for warning signs in others and have the courage to reach out. You may save careers and you may save lives.

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”
F. Nightingale

Thank you for all you do, and all that you give.  Together, we are making the world a better place, one compassionate, skilled and courageous act at a time. Thank you. In fact, 40,000 “thank you’s!” We are a caring force to be reckoned with--the PSJH Mission made visible.

With deepest gratitude from your biggest fan, Deb Burton, CNO