“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear”

Florence Nightingale


It is with heavy heart that I’m reporting to you now from seclusion, of course, outside the beltway of DC. This will be a pensive 200th bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth and Year of the Nurse and Midwife (YOTNM).

Recall our expectations on Jan1st of this year? We planned so many activities and celebrations … all changed.

Now, despite the setbacks, despite the general panic, nurses and healthcare workers of all sorts have continued to provide care on the frontlines, while putting themselves in great danger of becoming infected or infecting their families and co-workers. Testimonials on social media tell of the harrowing, long hours of hospitals under siege of the virus, where nurses fill in for absent family, who are barred from accompanying patients into the wards.

At the time of this writing, according to the CDC, there is no data base that comprehensively accounts for nurses or other healthcare workers who die trying to save others. The estimate is 27, but those are persons who received a test and showed + for COVID19. Sadly, without proper testing, we cannot know the exact numbers. Based on so many variables, the expectation is that the real number of clinician deaths is far higher. This is sobering news. Through it all, the stories of nurses going the extra mile, providing constant CARE, over and above the skilled ICU clinical care required makes me think Florence Nightingale would be so proud that her proteges have carried on the torch of kindness and caring throughout the world, no matter the circumstances.

Meanwhile, as those of you on the firing lines are being severely tested, many of us who are unable to join you are working behind the scenes to advocate and support your efforts to win this war, battle by battle, all over the US, all over the globe. Others, in less acute centers, find ourselves suddenly without a paycheck.

Now, I suspect we have all begun to learn the first lesson that our “greatest generation” (aged 75-90) learned years ago, through surviving The Great Depression and WWII.

Yes, they got their moniker, not because the stock market crashed, but because, in the midst of many losing everything, they depended upon faith, family, and community to fuel internal fortitude and gain the strength to face such difficulties as seen in those modern times. They learned to flex, adapt, and innovate in record order.

They learned that although money is an important fuel to keep the home fires burning, it isn’t the MOST important thing. They learned that FEAR is the real enemy because it causes doubt, suspicion, inertia, cripples economy of movement, and stifles creativity.

As Nightingale concluded, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”

No doubt, she would also be shocked that in the 21st c., with all our technological improvements and advanced warnings of the possibility of such an epidemic explosion, we were seemingly unprepared. That said, now isn’t the time to point fingers; it’s the time to adapt and work for solutions without the dreaded “politics and politicking” that impedes progress, according to Miss Nightingale. Happily, many of us are working to use the data available to impact innovative ways of enabling change in record time. (War does help in some ways, to necessitate progress.)

In these times, we turn towards our brave heroes of old to remind us that troubled times come and go but the human condition will survive… when we put aside our petty differences and work for the common good.

So, how might we, who are on the sidelines, celebrate with kindness in midst of chaos? Here are a few ideas for spreading general positiveness:

• Use the resources we have to reach out and touch someone…without physically touching, of course. One such example this week was from my friend and colleague, Beth Boynton and her colleague, Liz Korabek-Emerson, who presented online through Creative Mornings a webinar on Improv and Mindfulness to “cheer you up and calm you down.”

• Join the urban dwellers in cities who have designated Thursday evenings at 8pm to open the windows, toot their horns, bang on pots, and scream “THANK YOU!!!”

• Send food to healthcare organizations to feed overworked staff and clinicians and keep restaurants and their employees afloat.

• Email and text to connect, despite sometimes spotty internet service. (Not everyone needs/wants to showcase their living space.)

• Write notes of thanks and send cards. (Happily, our post office workers are still delivering mail!)

• Join the Nurse4Health.org hackathon (free) to learn more about what’s NEW and how to help change the world of healthcare asap

• Watch uplifting videos and share them, like this one: https://youtu.be/LcouA_oWsnU

• Wave at passing neighbors or, like my little grandson, throw kisses at passing cars!

• Engage with Miss Nightingale on May 12, at noon PT/ 3pm ET as we celebrate the YOTNM and give back to our community. Join me and my friend and colleague, Sharon Weinstein, RN, CSP, FAAN, for a 30 minute ZOOM and FB Live event, Flo’s 200th Virtual Birthday BASH! There will be cake (for Miss Nightingale) and gifts (for attendees)! It’s for a good cause (GEDInfp.com) and it’s FREE to attend! Here’s the link to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/flos-200th-birthday-virtual-party-tickets-104090328976

Thoughts to remember:

This week, I watched the 1982 version of the movie, ANNIE, with my grandsons. (What fun to introduce them to one of my fav musicals!) The finale was especially poignant, when Annie sings, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you’re only a day away!” It helped put things in perspective.

Even though many of us have suffered severe financial set-backs, we can still “keep the faith” (while keeping our distance) and know the sun will continue to rise every morning, the moon will continue to light the night, and better times WILL come. Bank on that.

I hope wherever you are, you find a way to celebrate the YOTNM !