Message from the Dean

interim-dean-casey-shillam

In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity ~Albert Einstein

The World Health Organization’s designation of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife has taken quite a turn for nurses in our country and throughout the world. This designation intended to highlight the power of the nursing profession and the impact nurses have on health and wellness. The impact of Covid-19 in the Year of the Nurse and Midwife raises the level of visibility of our profession, and also sheds a light on an opportunity we must embrace.

Efforts of nurses today are being showcased in daily news and social media as “heroic.” And while this may be how some view the profession, I can assure you that this is not the reason one chooses to become a nurse. Nurses in practice today are emotionally devastated by the impact this virus is having on the lives of their patients, families, and communities. Yet, they are also looking at the scientific data driving their decisions about patient care. They are bringing their in-depth knowledge of disease processes, medications, treatment plans, and environmental impacts into the care they provide every day.

In partnership with patients, nurses gain an understanding of the realities of how patients live with chronic disease: how to access healthy food, maintain physical activity, and create and maintain systems of positive support. And now, of course: how to stay healthy in the context of a global pandemic. Nurses must incorporate these social determinants of health in their care to combat the disparities they see in the vulnerable and underserved patients they treat.

This time of crisis is difficult, forcing all of us to hone our skills in resilience and self-care. But there is also a great opportunity for innovation and leadership. Innovations in education will have a significant impact on the health care system, informing the creation of new models of care to meet patients and families where they live, work, and play. Despite the turmoil of this current crisis, we are facing perhaps the greatest opportunity to fix the aspects of the health system that do not serve us well, and focus more clearly and purposefully on creating systems that do.

At the center of this innovation, creativity, and drive for excellence in patient care you will find nurses. Nurses drive the quality, safety, and effectiveness of health care. They provide the compassion and empathy that connects the health system to the humanity of providing care to patients, families, and communities. In times of so much uncertainty in our world, you can always be certain that nurses are leading the way in caring for those most in need. Now it is time for nurses to step into leadership roles in their communities and local or state governments. It is a time to bring the depth and breadth of nursing knowledge to forefront of leading through this crisis and building a stronger, healthier nation.

Casey R. Shillam, PhD, RN

Dean and Professor