1. Verklan, M. Terese PhD, CCNS, RNC

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We are leaving 2010 soon, and I want to talk to you about the power of nursing. It takes a very special person to become a nurse. According to Wikipedia, a nurse is a healthcare professional who, in collaboration with other members of a healthcare team, is responsible for treatment, safety, and recovery of ill individuals; health promotion and maintenance within families, communities, and populations; and treatment of life-threatening emergencies in a wide range of healthcare settings. But this only scratches the surface. A nurse is so much more.


You remember that Florence Nightingale, an English nurse, came to prominence during the Crimean War for her pioneering work in nursing. She has been called "The Lady with the Lamp," because she made nursing rounds at night to take care of the injured soldiers. Her legacy is her role in establishing the modern nursing profession. She is the original role model for commitment to patient care, compassion, diligent hospital administrative work, and using data (evidence) to advocate for changes in practice. Several years ago, the Florence Nightingale declaration campaign was established by nurse leaders throughout the world through the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health. The aims of the campaign are to achieve 2 UN resolutions that were adopted by the 2008 UN general assembly.


The first resolution was to designate the year 2010 as the International Year of the Nurse (IYNurse), because it is the centennial of Nightingale's death. The 2010 IYNurse seeks to recognize the contributions of nurses globally and to engage nurses in the promotion of world health, including the UN Millennium Development Goals. To celebrate this historic milestone, the 2010 IYNurse is a sustained public awareness initiative to actively involve approximately more than 15 million world's nurses in a celebration of commitment to bring health to their communities, locally and worldwide. I hope that many of you have had the opportunity to be involved and have contributed your energy and caring on behalf of our profession.


The second resolution was to designate the period from 2011 to 2020 as The UN Decade for a Healthy World because it is the bicentennial of Nightingale's birth. A worldwide collaboration of nurses have worked to create the global campaign "Mobilizing Public Opinion for the Health of Nations" that is necessary to achieve the long-term goal of "achieving a healthy world by 2020." "Universal caring for the health of all peoples is an achievable goal fundamental in creating global economic and environmental sustainability and in replacing violent conflict with peace and prosperity in communities and nations being built by healthy citizens" (


Wow-the power of nursing!!


"The Nightingale Declaration for Our Healthy World" has been signed by 106 countries and has been circulated and signed by millions of nurses, healthcare professionals, educators, and other caregivers around the world since 2007. Perhaps your signature is proudly counted among the many. The declaration is being used as the corner stone for the Decade for a Healthy World. The Web site "" states the following:


We, the nurses and concerned citizens of the global community hereby dedicate ourselves to the accomplishment of a healthy world by the year 2020.


We declare our willingness to unite in a program of action, sharing information, and solutions to resolve problems and improve conditions-locally, nationally, and globally-to achieve health for allhumanity.


We further resolve to adopt personal practices and to implement public policies in our communities and nations, making this goal for the year 2020 achievable and inevitable, beginning today in our own lives, in the life of our nations, and in the world at large.


Wow-the power of nursing!! You can go to the Web site and sign the declaration and become one of the millions of other nurses who want to make a difference today.


But most days, I don't think of such ideal thoughts. I am concerned with what is happening with my patient, or in the unit, or with my family and circle of friends. You know that a day working as a nurse is "never just another day." I sometimes take being a nurse for granted. People look at you differently when they discover that you are a nurse, because they already have expectations about what you are like. I don't always remember that the public views nursing as the noblest and trustworthiest of all professions. Thus they trust us, and we have to work hard to keep that trust, or we lose our power.


Nurses see people at their worst times and at their best times. How privileged we are to be able to share the birth of a baby with the family or help the extremely ill neonate to have a peaceful death. We also experience those negative situations-when a family member becomes abusive, and there is a need to call security. Often, it takes a lot of coverage and determination to provide the best care we can to the patient and family.


But we do it with passion, because the profession of perinatal nursing holds many wonders. Remember when you were a student and were so nervous and scared? I'll bet many of us have never forgotten giving our first injection!! Or having the pregnant woman ask you a question about her medical condition and you didn't know the answer. Perhaps you were afraid to congratulate the parents on the birth of a beautiful baby when he was born with a large cleft lip and palate. "What could I possibly say to assuage their feelings at what is supposed to be one of the most joyous occasions of their lives?" Their eyes look to you to see what your response is, and if you can smile and be happy for them, then they will feel they and their baby are accepted. We can make a patient feel so much better by simply sitting beside them-no need to even talk. How many professions can do that? Wow-the power of nursing!!


Many things have gotten easier for us, because we have moved through our careers. We've become familiar with the physiology, medications, and hospital routines and have seen so many women and babies. We rarely think about the resources we have at our fingertips that facilitate the healthy outcomes of the woman or her baby who needs more than "routine" care. Think of the women in developing countries who are shunned because they are considered "dirty" since they are incontinent due to third- and fourth-degree lacerations. A lay midwife there does not have the skill to suture the tears. There are no hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment in addition to a serious lack of basic medical supplies and medications. It is difficult to watch a young infant or mother die and even harder to console the family afterward. Undaunted, the nurses work with what they have. They have their spirit, the trust of the families, and the strength from knowing that their patient and family are grateful to them because they are there. I knew a nurse (never thought I would ever forget her name-she was very senior, and I was so new) who went into all of her patients' rooms at 10:00 PM to give them a kiss on the forehead and say "good night, pleasant dreams." These patients were adult men and women receiving treatment for head and neck cancers. I noticed how much better all of them slept when she did that. The power of nursing!!


Nurses are the healthcare providers who spend the most time in contact with the patients. You saved someone's life, because you were observant. You help a fellow nurse who is too busy with 1 patient and make the shift easier. You may have had a bad day and sit alone and cry. Relatives often call and ask for advice. And they will follow what you say, because you are a nurse. At the end of the day, you may return home very tired but feeling so wonderful because of the difference you made in someone's life that day. The power of nursing!!


I encourage you to visit the Nightingale Declaration Web site (given earlier). There is a lot of information regarding plans to provide better-quality healthcare around the globe over the next 10 years. Maybe you will play an active role in many projects. In the meantime, I want to leave you with A Nurse's Prayer (Allison Chambers Coxsey, 1997):


Give me strength and wisdom, when others need my touch;


A soothing word to speak to them, their hearts yearn for so much;


A soothing word to speak to them, to lift a weary soul;


Pour in me compassion, to make the broken whole.


Give me gentle, healing hands, for those left in my care;


A blessing to those who need me; this is a nurse's prayer.


-M. Terese Verklan, PhD, CCNS, RNC


Associate Professor/Neonatal


Clinical Nurse Specialist,


School of Nursing


University of Texas Health Science Center


Houston, Texas