The Year of the Nurse: Thank You to Nurses Leading the COVID-19 Response

In honor of National Nurses Week (May 6-12), Appleton native and Chief Nursing Officer of Ascension Wisconsin Heather Schimmers penned the following message to all nurses. 

To be a fellow worker with God is the highest aspiration of which we can conceive man capable.

Florence Nightingale, founder of the modern nursing profession (1820-1910)

Florence Nightingale’s words echo the Mission, Vision and Values of Ascension nurses across the nation as they answer the call to serve their communities with an incredible strength of healing during these unprecedented times and nearly overwhelming conditions.

The World Health Organization and the American Nurses Association designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse, and nurses have never been more critically important to the healthcare industry. This year, these usually unsung caregivers are being widely recognized as healthcare heroes.

We have seen countless nurses leave their homes to bravely face the greatest global healthcare challenge of our time. We are grateful for and humbled by the unwavering dedication to patient care displayed daily by nurses nationwide as they lead with their fellow caregivers at the front line of this pandemic. It is no surprise that Gallup named nursing as the most trusted profession for the 18th year in a row.

Heather Schimmers, RN, MBA, Chief Nursing Officer, Ascension Wisconsin

At a time when many patients are alone and isolated from their families, nurses have gone beyond clinical care with simple acts of compassion to brighten long days of solitude and show patients how much they matter. Across Ascension Wisconsin hospitals, we’ve seen nurses sing to their patients, play games with patients in isolation from the other side of their glass room door, and help patients and families find new and safe ways to connect through windows, virtual visits and prayers. 

When the Racine community asked how they could show their support and appreciation for our frontline caregivers at Ascension All Saints Hospital, one of our NICU nurses, Melisa Palacios, created Flashin’ First Fridays. An event where the community could come to the hospital on Friday, April 3, and flash their car lights to show their solidarity. More than 1,200 vehicles attended the parade. 

Flashin’ First Fridays, April 3, 2020 in Racine

In Appleton, nurses decorated the windows of the postpartum and labor and delivery units to brighten the hallways. In Tomahawk, Shannon Bushong, LPN and Tiffany Barthels, CMA, served their communities at one of our dedicated COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites. These are only a handful of countless examples of our nurses going above and beyond to care for their communities during this unprecedented time. 

Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital, Appleton

We are also grateful for Wisconsin communities that have stepped up to help support and show appreciation to their local nurses. So many people, both young and old, have showered our nurses with meals, thoughtful gifts, encouraging chalk messages, children’s drawings, and signage around hospital entrances and walkways for our teams to see and appreciate as they start and finish their shifts.

Celebrating our nurses has never been more important to us than at this moment. Who could have predicted that during the designated Year of the Nurse our nurses would be leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 drive-thru testing in Tomahawk

While Wisconsin nurses continue to battle COVID-19 on the front lines, colleagues across Ascension are working behind the scenes to help empower them with innovative solutions to improve how they care for patients and each other. Last year, with the collaboration of our nursing professionals, we established the Nursing Center of Excellence. Our goal is for Ascension to become one of the best places to practice nursing by transforming our ability to care for ourselves and others, holistically. As an organization and as leaders, we must actively remove obstacles and create conditions in which our nurses can experience joy and flourish while caring for those we are so privileged to serve. By acting and delivering on what we’re learning from our nurses, we are building a community — with tools and resources — where nurses can live and grow as leaders who are professional, caring, empowered, knowledgeable, innovative and inspired.

As it turns out, 2020 is truly the Year of the Nurse. As we celebrate Nurses Week, we are reminded that, as throughout the 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale, the healthcare industry continues to rapidly change. What doesn’t change is the high level of compassion, strength and dedication nurses provide to their patients every day. To our Ascension nurses, and all nurses living out the Nightingale pledge, we humbly say: Thank you.

Health & Wellness, People

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