1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN


Looking forward to a fresh start.


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January 2020 seemed to offer unlimited possibilities. But by the end of the year, a new disease had changed every aspect of life around the globe. Our January cover is designed to reflect that-it depicts the planet as one huge coronavirus, with every continent containing a biohazard caution symbol.

Figure. Maureen Shaw... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Maureen Shawn Kennedy

For those of you who are regular readers of AJN, you know that our January In the News section traditionally focuses on the "Year in Review," highlighting the major news stories of the past year that have affected nurses, nursing, and those to whom we provide care. This year, we chose to do something different: to create a timeline focusing on the events that led to the worst pandemic the world has seen in 100 years. We chose to do this not because COVID-19 was the only major event of 2020, but because dealing with the other issues that dominated the year depends in part on our surviving this virus.


As I write this just after Thanksgiving, it's unfathomable that over 275,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and that the number will likely be much higher by the time you read this. It didn't have to be this way. If we had followed a national plan and listened to the experts, lives would have been saved. Among the dead are more than 1,500 nurses-undoubtedly a gross undercount, since the International Council of Nurses notes that numbers were reported by only 44 of 195 countries. Again, it didn't have to be this way. If nurses had had the personal protective equipment they needed, lives would have been saved.


Among the other exigent issues this year: the stark, ugly reality of the social inequities that exist in this country, and the unrelenting natural disasters from our changing climate. The rising maternal mortality among Black women; the violent, unnecessary deaths of many Black Americans; and the disparities of deaths from COVID-19 in Black and Hispanic communities led to a renewed call for change as protesters demanded equity and social justice. This month's Viewpoint by former nursing dean Virginia Adams offers a compelling and personal account of why people need to understand and support Black Lives Matter. In AJN Reports, we offer a summary of our webinar, "Nursing's Role in Addressing Racism" (freely accessible on by clicking on the "Multimedia" tab and then "Webinars"). I urge you to listen to the webinar and learn how to recognize and call out structural racism in your organizations and communities.


Other tragedies wrought by wildfires, floods, tornados, and a seemingly unending number of tropical storms have also made 2020 a year we want to leave behind. As a nation that is the second largest contributor to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions, we need to revisit our refusal to join global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to greater awareness of the extraordinary and complex work that nurses do. Let's make use of this by banding together with our health care colleagues and insisting on the changes we know are needed to improve health care systems. I often hear from nurses who say nursing journals should only cover clinical matters and stay out of politics. But the millions of deaths we've seen in 2020 stem from failed policies at all levels of government. Policies-and those who make them-determine funding, and for far too long funding for our health system, from paying for adequate nursing staff to public health infrastructure and community health, has been too far down on the priority list.


As we move into 2021, my wish for this new year is that we resolve to approach it with a renewed sense of purpose-one that will result in more nurses becoming involved in politics (we now have two nurses in Congress) or working or voting for those who will make the changes we and our patients need. There's been too many offerings of thoughts and prayers for needless deaths and not enough action. Words without actions offer no comfort. Just ask the families of the more than 275,000 Americans who died of COVID-19 this year.