Most of us will engage with the health care system over the course of our lives, and for many it will be nurses who help guide us through the experience. Nurses are an essential part of the health care work force and also, importantly, an essential partner in our health care experiences.
It is not surprising that for close to two decades, American’s have named nursing as one of the most trusted professions. Why? Honesty and empathy. For these reasons and many others, the World Health Organization and other key partners celebrated 2020 as the international year of the nurse and midwife. A year to honor nurses and the key role they play in providing care, but also a year to draw attention to the challenges and opportunities for nursing leadership and innovation.
The Moore Foundation’s Patient Care Program has a deep history of supporting nurses at the bedside, in their health care systems, and in the community. Our most recent effort has been the establishment of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. The program builds on an important legacy of the foundation: supporting nurse leadership. A legacy built on the keen insights of our founder, Betty Irene Moore, who saw the true power and compassion of nurses. A legacy I believe many would join in me in acknowledging as inspiring, and one I’ve been honored to support and carry on through my experience at the foundation.
Knowing the vital roles nurses and midwives play in delivering care, it should not have surprised me when I was surrounded by caring, knowledgeable and capable nurses in my maternity and postpartum care as I welcomed my second child to the world early last year. We were fortunate to have benefited from the wise council and guidance of our nurses; nurses who effectively led our health team as they coordinated and provided care. Each nurse I encountered brought their unique experience to the table, and to my bedside. I benefited from the life lessons the nurses were able to provide, knowing they had taken care of so many others before me.
After spending time developing the idea of the nurse leaders and innovators fellowship and considering its potential impact on health care, I was most struck by how my own experience reinforced that nursing leadership and innovation can be seen at any level and at any point in the health care system. As many parents will tell you, innovation shows itself in ways both big and small – the creativity and ingenuity nurses bring to supporting patients can be seen throughout the health care system. Whether it’s the use of new tools or products, or simply the communication strategies they employ when speaking to patients, nurses have an innate sense of what a patient may need, and how to provide the best care.
It is fitting the launch of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators, a program to support nurse leaders in developing skills and confidence in leadership and innovation, announced its first cohort of fellows in 2020. Although 2020 was poised to be a year set to reflect and honor the accomplishments of nurses, it proved to be so much more as nurses stepped up to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing profession, and the health care workers they partner with every day, continue to prove that no amount of leadership should be undervalued. Even the smallest innovation has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of patients as well as to the future of health care. The foundation and others are working to share lessons from nurses that will carry past the COVID-19 pandemic and into health systems moving forward.
My family and I will always be grateful for the lessons, experience, and expertise we received from our nurses. The thoughtfulness and compassion exemplified by our nurses and caregivers is something I strive to imbue into my children and spread throughout our communities at large.
Susan Song is a program officer for Patient Care Program at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.