President's Column: Happy 200th Birthday to Florence Nightingale: We Are All Flo

May 28, 2020

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It is an unprecedented time in our modern world. Unstoppable nurses are on the front lines of a global pandemic, clocking countless hours with the most ill and vulnerable patients, and providing exceptional care under extraordinary circumstances.

Because of this devastating pandemic we canceled the National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI) for the first time ever. NTI will return, but for now AACN continues to provide you with the facts, resources and evidence you need during this crisis and for your future practice.

Much is still unfamiliar and unclear about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Still, the foundational principles for mitigation and an emphasis on sanitation, hand hygiene, fresh air, exercise and good nutrition — championed by Florence Nightingale (Flo) in the 19th century — endure.

Appropriately, 2020 is the Year of the Nurse. And, this month we celebrated Nurses Week and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

No matter how much we advance, Flo resonates. Those Florence fundamentals remain the basis of modern healthcare. Indeed, these principles and actions are at the forefront of planning to help us “flatten the curve” by prioritizing social distancing to help protect against community spread and guard our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Flo believed that what she observed and measured gave her the moral imperative to describe what she was seeing among patients and nurses and use that to create change in healthcare. She and her data were so influential that she persuaded the government and healthcare providers to supply needed, yet never before considered, resources for patients.

She was well ahead of the curve when it came to evidence-based nursing, but statistics and evidence alone won’t carry us through this uncertain time. Like Flo, it takes resilience and innovation forged in unprecedented circumstances. During Flo’s experience as a wartime nurse, she rose above impossible conditions, much like many of our critical care nurses are doing during the current COVID-19 crisis. We are all Flo.

What was true then is true now. We hear the stories of nursing courage and innovation in the face of extreme clinical scenarios, equipment shortages, staffing challenges and rising cases of burnout and moral distress. Yet nurses and their teams have come together to create amazing outcomes in the most difficult of circumstances. We are all Flo.

Every day, nurses answer the call to care for our nation’s sickest patients. Now more than ever we at AACN thank you and honor your Unstoppable strength, grit and dedication. We stand as one to face trials and triumphs together. We are all Flo.

As we continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth and International Year of the Nurse, let us remember her as both the compassionate Lady with the Lamp and the driven, unstoppable founder of modern nursing who affected revolutionary healthcare change in the grip of war.

Let me know how you are channeling your inner Flo during this unprecedented and challenging time. Email