By Addi Watters, RN, OCN®, BMTCN® 

Addi Watters, RN, OCN®, BMTCN®
Addi Watters, RN, OCN®, BMTCN®

One of the first people we learn about in nursing school is Florence Nightingale. During the Crimean War, she noticed soldiers were dying because of disease, not from the effects of war. Because of Nightingale’s observations and interventions, handwashing and infection control became standard practices in nursing. From her findings, Nightingale developed her environmental theory, in which she said nursing is a calling, art, and science that requires a specific education base. We’re recognizing this throughout 2020 as we celebrate the Year of the Nurse, and it’s especially important to remember during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

COVID-19 is affecting the world. Although most of the population is asked to stay home, healthcare professionals are asked to work, and oncology nurses are responding without hesitation. 

Nurses are frontline healthcare providers, and those in every specialty are being told to expect an influx of patients with COVID-19 diagnoses. Every day we’re reminded how patients with cancer, or any other who are immunocompromised, are at higher risk for contracting severe COVID-19 and may not survive the illness. Our job is to remain vigilant and provide the best care we can to all patients. It’s not always easy being a nurse, but most of us will tell you that the job’s reward is worth it.   

Oncology nurses create bonds with coworkers unlike any other, and working during a pandemic strengthens that connection. This culture is likely one of the only aspects of our day-to-day work that has not changed during the pandemic. Whether it’s making sure everyone has lunch, securing safe accommodations for themselves and their family members, or just sharing cute animal pictures to lighten the mood, these acts of camaraderie are one of the many ways nurses are able to stay mentally and emotionally healthy to continue combating COVID-19. 

The virus doesn’t recognize whether you work at an academic medical center or rural care delivery center. Nurses across the globe are forced to navigate changes to their workflows, train in different roles, and adjust to caring for diverse patient populations outside their specialty

Even though times are chaotic, nurses report to work every day prepared to care for their patients. When you ask nurses why they chose nursing, you often hear the same answer: We became nurses to help those who need it most. This sentiment holds true, even with the drastic increase in those who need our help. 

As we celebrate the Year of the Nurse, we recognize that it takes a special person to become a nurse. It requires a lifetime commitment and dedication to others. Remember, Nightingale acknowledged that nursing is a calling. Are you proud you answered the call? Because I am, especially now.