1. Pickler, Rita H.

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Although it will not be over for another two months, 2020 is definitely a year most could have done without. Certainly, 2020 was not the year we hoped for or imagined. I remember the excitement about the "Year of the Nurse and Midwife" and the anticipation of celebrations in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. This was to be a year for highlighting the contributions of nurses as many groups and organizations made plans to showcase clinical and scientific achievements. Excitement was in the air.


Thus, as we welcomed 2020, we were not paying much attention to the reports about a new virus. Even though January and February came with increased awareness that we should be more concerned than we had been about other recent viral outbreaks, we still lacked understanding about THIS virus and its virulence. Until March. That is when we began to pay attention to how quickly and widely COVID-19 had spread, and thus, much of the world stopped. Daily, another meeting, event, or routine was canceled, postponed, or moved to "virtual." We struggled to make sense of the sickness and death, the horror of having the disease, and the almost equal horror of providing care for those with the disease. We redefined "normal life" and acknowledged that we were in a pandemic.


Included in all the turmoil wrought by the pandemic was scientific progress. Simply put, science changed. Some scientists were able to expand their work to study the virus and its effects. Because of special funding, some scientists were able to add questions about the virus or pandemic effects to their on-going studies. Other scientists, however, remain unable, even at this writing, to continue their studies of significant health questions. Unfortunately, among the large loss of life attributed to COVID-19 were numbers of scientists. The tragedy we have experienced is almost beyond words.


Now, as I write this editorial during the peak of summer heat, we are still wearing masks, socially distancing, and working remotely when we can. We do not know what life will be like two or three or four months from now. However, we do know that the yearly influenza spread will have started, complicating the work of healthcare providers and taxing already stressed healthcare systems. Scientists who are already tired of the constant need to adjust their research projects, both in content and process, will likely, like so many people across almost all professions, remain challenged in progressing their work.


However, although we do not have the benefit of time for full reflection on what has transpired or a crystal ball for the future, we do wonder: Was it all bad? Will any good come of our experiences in 2020, especially as scientists? Will we learn enough about emerging infections in order to prevent them in the future? Will we learn better ways to respond to such widespread infection by prevention or treatment? Will we have a better understanding of the flaws in our healthcare systems that limited response to such widespread chaos? Will we have learned anything about the importance of collaboration and cooperation for the greater good, especially in science? Perhaps.


There is hope that scientists have been studying all these questions in the real-world "natural experiment" in which we are living. These lessons, if we learn them, may be our best protection against future healthcare disasters. Science will continue as it must, and here at Nursing Research, we remain ready to disseminate scientific findings, advancing all aspects of health.