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Nursing Week 2021: Nurses Continue to Answer the Call

The ethical practice of a nurse is defined by seven primary values, (1) providing safe, compassionate, competent and ethical care, (2) promoting health and well-being, (3) promoting and respecting informed decision-making, (4) honouring dignity, (5) maintaining privacy and confidentiality, (6) promoting justice, and (7) being accountable. These values are meant to be the corner stone of a registered nurse’s workplace culture, practice, and day to day activities.  As ‘We Answer the Call’, the theme of Nursing Week 2021, it is time for nurses to check in and ask ourselves how we are doing, explore our commitment to these shared values, and reflect on where we can challenge ourselves to do better.

Each of the values outlined above is grounded in a practice that is informed by evidence. Evidence that is comprised of research, practitioner experience, and patient preference. Recognizing that many nurses work in health environments that are multi-disciplinary, we each have a responsibility to support the implementation of evidence as we navigate our primary values. So, how are we doing? Overall, we have proven that nursing care has both positive impact and outcomes for those for whom we provide care. Even during this pandemic, despite the strain COVID-19 has put on our health systems the impact of excellent nursing care is visible locally, nationally, and internationally. Nurses practicing in environments that are informed by evidence are seeing a further heightened impact.

I am confident stating that nurses provide safe, compassionate, and ethical care, and that every effort is made to promote health and well-being. But where can we challenge ourselves to do better? How well are nurses promoting justice and informed decision-making in their respective practices? As nurses we have a responsibility to ensure that we attend to each of the seven primary values and that we also hold each other accountable. We need to collectively use our voices, work together, and demonstrate the professional standards for which we espouse.

This year’s Nursing Week is the second to take place during the COVID-19 global health crisis. While it currently appears as though the province may avoid a worst-case triage scenario in ICU, the cost to our health care system is high. Canada’s pandemic recovery will need nurses from all capacities: staff nurses, researchers, academics, teachers, managers, policy makers and administrators, to name a few. We also need more nurses in elected office, in interview chairs, on task forces and in policy-making rooms, as we continue to educate, organize, and lead. As we celebrate the many roles and achievements of nurses, I ask that you continue to reflect on the ways we can further come together and demonstrate the strength and potential of our profession.

When I look at our graduating Class of 2021, I see so many young nurse advocates and leaders. Choosing to become a health professional and entering the workforce during a pandemic is no small decision. Likewise, choosing to remain a health professional during a pandemic is no small decision either, especially as we continue to lose talented colleagues to burn out, moral injury, and COVID-19. That is why our commitment this Nursing Week is not only to celebrate but to also acknowledge the fear and concern for what lies ahead. Concerns for an increased workload, the impact of deployment in the workplace, and the need to increase admissions in nursing education. We need to support nurses entering and returning to the workplace using innovative, safe, and appropriate approaches. Now more than ever the adaptation to change and the acceptance of new challenges is paramount to the many roles of a nurse. And I know that, as has always been the practice, nurses will work together, utilizing the seven primary values to adapt and accept.

Erna Snelgrove-Clarke is the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and The Director of the School of Nursing at Queens University. Find her on twitter @KTerna

This article has been published as part of our Nursing Week 2021 campaign, which seeks to celebrate and amplify the voices and opinions of our nursing faculty, students, alumni and colleagues. Please note that this is an op-ed essay, and all content shared belongs to the authors.