It’s National Nurses Week, when we take time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our nurses here at Swedish and throughout the health care community. Over the last two and half years, nurses have become the face of care and symbols of resilience, as they shepherded the country and the world through the COVID-19 pandemic.
And this year’s theme, Rooted in Strength, could not be a more apt description of the profession and those who dedicate their lives to it. Arguably, there has never been a time in recent history when our nurses have been more seen, their strength and passion more recognized or the essential role they play in care more understood. Still, the nursing profession is struggling. Burnout is real. Nurses are weary. And some of our most trusted caregivers are turning in their scrubs after two years on COVID’s front line
For National Nurses Week, we spoke with Swedish First Hill Chief Nursing Officer Marci Mann about the incredible work of our Swedish nurses, the current critical moment and her hopes for the future of nursing.
Tell us about the importance of Nurses Week and recognizing our nurses’ contributions during the pandemic and, more broadly, every day as part of the care team.
Nurses Week gives us an opportunity to recognize our nurses and everything that they do. This was true even pre-pandemic. It’s a time to just celebrate everything that we do and how we serve our patients. We celebrate each other and all the work that we do and the education that we've gone through to be able to care for our patients.
But particularly now, it's so important that we recognize our nurses. The two years of this pandemic have been hard [on everyone] and it's been exceptionally hard on nursing, especially because of our caregiver shortages.
And now we have nurses stepping away from the profession, so it's particularly important for us to be able to celebrate and acknowledge the nurses that are here, caring for our patients and helping our community and helping our hospital. It's so important for us to really come together and to celebrate and at the same time acknowledge how hard this profession really is right now.
How are we supporting the development of new nurses and bringing more people into the nursing profession?
Well, right now we're at a pivotal point in healthcare within the United States. We have a nursing shortage that is national and that is going to affect each one of us. And how do we get people at a young age to start thinking about nursing as a career now? It is such a fantastic, multifaceted career. Not only do nurses take care of people, but it’s also a profession with work/life balance and opportunity for movement and growth. Whether it's in public health or primary care, in the hospice setting, or in case management, you can progress. Nursing is a is a noble, needed profession. We've always needed nurses, and we always will in the future.
How has the pandemic changed the public perception of nurses and the nursing profession?
The pandemic has allowed the public to gain insight into healthcare and especially into the role of nursing. I think that they realize what a vital role that nursing plays and how extremely hard it is to care for patients, especially when they're so sick. And I think the pandemic brought that to a national stage and we saw the importance of nurses celebrated throughout the world.
Now that we're in year two, going into year three of the pandemic, that's changed a little bit. And yes, the public still feels that way about nursing, but the support that we had at the beginning of the pandemic from the public isn't there like it was at the beginning. That is true for hospitals, too. All of healthcare is feeling the extreme fatigue of this pandemic.
In nursing specifically, we really need to use this time to think about how we continue to grow. We're so pivotal right now in healthcare as far as shaping what healthcare is going to look like in the future. And that's where we need everybody. Just like a phoenix we're rebuilding from the ashes right now. And that's what we're doing is we're rebuilding, and we need everybody's collective voice to be here so we can continue to shape what healthcare is going to look like for our future.
Let’s pivot a little bit. We've been following the trial of RaDonda Vaught, the Tennessee nurse who was recently criminally prosecuted for a fatal drug error. How does this inform our support for our Swedish nurses and the broader nursing community?
We had a town hall where we talked about the facts of the RaDonda case, and also what are we doing here at Swedish to ensure the safety of our nurses. We recognize the fear that this case has stoked for all of us in healthcare. We are really talking through everything with our nurses, our patient safety officers, and our pharmacy officers about what safety measures we have in place and ensuring that everybody has a voice in the conversation. RaDonda’s case wasn’t a nursing issue, it was a systems issue. We’re ensuring that our escalation systems within Swedish are there to help protect patients and caregivers. And most important, we stand behind our nurses because that’s who we are at Swedish.
Tell us about the importance of self-care for nurses.
Self-care is so important to our profession and one we tend to prioritize the least.
The theme of Nurses Week 2022 is Rooted in Strength, which partially focuses on and prioritizes self-care. Different from other Nurses Week themes, we are choosing to share many self-care lessons throughout the week. We are focusing on physical, emotional and spiritual strength by including such things as lessons from our Swedish Chaplains on Moral Distress and Walking the Labyrinth of Self-Care. The Chaplains also performed the blessing of the hands and brought our Swedish Canine Companions, Jared and Aulani, to visit our caregivers. We also benefited from our Physical Therapy and Occupational therapy experts who gave quick lessons in proper body mechanics along with exercises to keep us moving.
Hopefully, these and other self-care activities will help remind our nurses to care for themselves first so that they can continue to bring their best self to work for our patients.
And finally, tell us about some of your hopes for the future of nursing?
My hope for nursing is that we get into the communities we serve and that all members of society are represented in healthcare. I want us to continue being very mindful of our efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure that everybody is getting the care that they need in a culturally appropriate way. I hope we continue to grow and continue to be there to meet the needs of our patients and our caregivers. While it's been a difficult couple of years, I'm very optimistic about the future of nursing and I am confident that we will find and train the next generation of nurses and nursing leaders that will rise to address future challenges and care for the next generation.
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