President's Message December 2020

The year 2020 has brought so many changes that it is difficult to keep up. Social, political and cultural change is now expected on a daily basis instead of seen as ideas  we thoughtfully consider and plan to address at some distant future date. It’s hard to take it all in, and sometimes, it seems the best thing to do is unplug and disengage.  While fine on a temporary basis, total disengagement merely allows others to set the agenda and make decisions for us. There is too much at stake to remain silent. And yet, while change is accelerated, this is not new. I am reminded that early nursing leaders such as Lillian Wald addressed similar unrelenting challenges a century ago as she battled poverty, illness and injustice on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Poverty and injustice have always been with us and are in urgent need of attention.  Epidemics and pandemics have as well.  There is justified personal concern with COVID-19 and surviving until we can get the vaccine, which may be sometime next summer or early fall.  Many of us have spent the last year in seclusion, meeting on Zoom, avoiding holidays with our friends, children and grandchildren lest we all get sick or cause a surge in our communities. And yet, the past has come to our aid before and continues to do so. Research on AIDS, Ebola and SARS allowed a COVID vaccine to be developed in less than a year. While data from the past helped develop the COVID vaccine in record time, we know that understanding the social, political and cultural consequences of our current threat will be understood with a measure of time. By examining the changes that occurred in the 20th century as a response to epidemics and social injustice, we will find valuable lessons for today and solutions for tomorrow. This wealth of historical knowledge, much of it directly related to nursing, must be acknowledged.

While we, as members of AAHN, are aware of the ways in which nurses and other health care providers have been ignored or denigrated in the past, the public is coming to the stark realization that we exist. This is something to be celebrated. At one time earlier this year, nurses were hailed as heroes, applauded, given food and military fly-overs, but now everyone is simply exhausted as the virus rages throughout the world.  Nurses just want PPE and for their communities to take this threat seriously. The public wants to know a nurse will be there to hold their hand or help them say good-bye to their loved ones via iPhone or tablet should the need arise.

While we have much to consider and challenges to face as we move into 2021, we also have much to be thankful for. I, for one, am thankful for AAHN, for all of our members, the board of directors who work on our behalf and for the staff at Riggs Enterprise who provides critical support as we work toward creating a more sustainable organization. I am looking forward to the new year and all of the exciting opportunities that all members can take advantage of online. I’ll be in touch soon with more information on specific programs and plans going forward.  For now, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a healthy happy New Year!

All the best,