Every year, from May 6–12, we celebrate Nurses Week and shine a spotlight on the incredible nurses—registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and others—who devote their lives to provide quality, compassionate healthcare.
Remarkably, it has been a year since we celebrated the World Health Organization’s International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The year 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth and her role in transforming healthcare around the world.
Due to the COVID pandemic and the increased visibility of nurses throughout our communities, the American Nurses Association has collaborated with the WHO to extend the Year of the Nurse through 2021 and changed Nurses Week to Nurses Month—the entire month of May.
Nurses face many challenges every day, including physical, emotional, and mental stresses. As the pandemic got underway and then continued, we saw clinic practices close. Some nurses lost their jobs while others worked overtime, extra shifts, and long hours.
For nurses serving diverse populations, there are added challenges. Much COVID-19 information has not been translated into other languages and there is vaccine hesitancy, particularly for those who experienced historical trauma.
Diversity is important across the continuum of healthcare. People from every race, creed, gender, and age enter clinics, hospitals, and care settings every day looking for healthcare services. Someone once referred to this as providing healthcare to the melting pot of humanity.
Providing empathy, understanding, and clear communication requires a diverse workforce. It is important to understand that race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs, education, physical abilities and disabilities, socioeconomic background, language, culture, and even military service need to be considered when providing quality and holistic healthcare.
Stories from some of our diverse community nurses
“As a Registered Nurse Consultant with Aging and Disability Services, it is my role to provide education and connect people with resources, regardless of race or background,” said Sucdi Mohamed. “The African American community and immigrants have hesitancy when it comes to taking the COVID-19 vaccine due to many reasons, including distrust of the health care system, misinformation about vaccine side effects, language barriers, and challenges of navigating the overall health care system. As nurses we have a big role to continue our outreach efforts in educating these communities about the importance of the vaccine, provide resources, and support them to make informed decisions. These communities must continue to follow public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the infection and collaborate with community leaders and health care providers to fill the gap in vaccination rates among the underserved society.”
“I am a doctorally-prepared Registered Nurse specializing in gerontology and geriatric care and work as a Nurse Consultant at Chinese Information and Service Center,” said Michelle Yip. “I have served the Chinese American community for over 18 years and I am passionate about serving older adults with chronic medical conditions and disabilities and advocating for aging in place.”
Yip continued, saying, “I want to spend a moment to specially recognize our nurse colleagues, who are devoted to serving individuals, families, and our communities during this unprecedented, challenging time. While our elderly communities are confronted by the deadly virus, our nurse colleagues reach out to people’s homes and provide care to those vulnerable elderly. At times when our seniors with chronic diseases and disabilities are too concerned about infection to keep up their routine care or seek acute care, our nurse colleagues bring health services and nursing care to them to ensure their safety and well-being.
“Hospitals are overwhelmed and at capacity at times. Though this puts a strain on the nursing staff, our nurse colleagues continue to walk through the last weeks and days with the dying individuals and provide comfort and final blessings to the individuals and their families At times when nursing homes are locked down, our nurse colleagues stay with their elderly residents to provide day-to-day care while their families cannot be there. Nonetheless, at times when the COVID vaccines become available, our nurse colleagues reach out to the seniors and ensure our ethnic minority seniors have access to vaccination. I sincerely thank to every nurse colleague!”
In February 2021, Fartun Mohamed—a Registered Nurse at the Somali Health Board— volunteered to help administer COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic coordinated by Othello Station Pharmacy at the Brighton Apartments—a housing complex for older adults on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle. She was highlighted in an article in KUOW titled: “Communities of color doing unpaid work to fix the state’s broken vaccine system.” Fartun is a beacon of hope and help to the Somali community.
Culturally competent and sensitive nursing care builds client/patient trust and rapport. Please join me in thanking the diverse nursing workforce and celebrate their tireless efforts.
Contributor Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, BSN is a senior planner at Aging and Disability Services.
Please join Aging and Disability Services in thanking all health care professionals you may know for the care and support they have provided over the past 15 months. During Nurses Month, consider posting a message about nurses on social media, using hashtage #Nurses2021 #YON2021 #YearOfTheNurse.