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Dear Florence...


A letter to Florence Nightingale, inviting her to observe modern nurses in the midst of the 2020 Covid pandemic.

by SCB_RN SCB_RN (New)

Specializes in Med-Surg. RN. Has 14 years experience.

What would Florence think of 21st century nurses?

Dear Florence...

Dear Florence,

Greetings from 2020!

Does it surprise you to know that we continue to remember and celebrate you 2 centuries after your birth? There is certainly no greater world-famous celebrity in the sphere of nursing!

We nurses, in general, have become quite popular lately, and you will soon see why.

I’d like to invite you to celebrate your 200th birthday watching the modern nurse in action: observing the way we have changed in the past 200 years, but also seeing the fundamental ways in which nurses remain the same throughout the centuries. Just don’t expect a birthday cake or a large celebration in the staff break room. These things are forbidden right now…we are in the midst of a pandemic!

So don a mask, rub some sanitizer on your hands, and follow me into the hospital!

The nurses and aides on this unit were apprehensive about caring for Covid- 19 patients several weeks ago when local people began to fall ill. No one seems to know much about this virus or how we should be treating it. But you will be pleased to see how our staff refused to let their fear keep them from providing the best possible care for their patients. We’re all dressed alike in the same hospital-provided scrubs; even though they can be scratchy and not fit well, many are concerned about bringing the virus home on their clothing and inadvertently passing it to a vulnerable family member. Concern for family members at risk has been a great stressor and even brought some nurses to tears, but they still persevere, showing up to do the work that is so needed right now. We see what must be done, and we make no excuses: our patients are counting on us.

Since we take this virus so seriously, we are following strict isolation protocols. You’ll see how everyone is working as a team, bringing supplies or medications to their co-workers in isolation rooms. Our presence in our patients’ rooms is more important now than ever before. Many of them may not have seen family or friends in days, or weeks even. Other members of the healthcare team have been staying out of patient rooms as much as possible, in an effort to preserve PPE supplies. We, nurses and aides, are their primary human connection, the only in-person voices and eyes making contact with them throughout the day and night. Some patients are so desperate for human connection that even the conversations muffled through N95 masks, the touch of a gloved hand, bring comfort and reassurance.

In the midst of this pandemic, we face many uncertainties from one day to the next, as recommendations and policies constantly change; as some medications are determined to be useless for treating Covid- 19 and other, lesser-known medications are brought into the spotlight. Ventilators, we have found, are not as useful as we thought they would be. There is much learning, through trial and error. We nurses are, as always, being observant: seeing who recovers and who struggles, noticing which activities cause our patients to battle with breathlessness, learning new ways in which we can improve their oxygenation. Every day we are learning more, gaining helpful skills, and promoting better outcomes for our patients. You can be proud of how today’s nurses are not standing idly by! No, we are constantly on the move. Right in the heart of this crisis, we are adapting, watchful, ready and excited to see the next big breakthrough.

Florence, nursing has grown and expanded in so many ways since your work brought much-needed attention and respect to the career of nursing. I’m sure you’re not surprised that nurses now have so many opportunities for education. Many are involved in research, and we’re all concerned about ongoing quality improvement to ensure that we’re providing the best evidence-based care for our patients. Even in the middle of a pandemic, we work hard to ensure a safe hospital stay for our patients: to protect them from falls, pressure injuries, medication errors, and hospital-acquired infections.

But while I’m sure you’ll be fascinated by our EMR documentation, and intrigued by the idea of patient satisfaction scores, I think what you’ll find most impressive is to see us in action, demonstrating the core values of nursing that have been preserved through generations of nurses: our dedication to the profession, our loyalty and commitment to each other and to our patients, our never-ending thirst for knowledge, and our tireless service even in the middle of fear and uncertainty. These things I know you recognize very well, and I’ve no doubt you are very pleased with the nurses of today’s world.


A Nurse of 2020



Hi! I'm SCB_RN. For the past 14 years, the variety and challenges of bedside nursing on a busy med-surg unit have provided me with many opportunities for thoughts, opinions, and reflections on the nursing experience.

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3 Comment(s)

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

An interesting article from a really neat perspective of a personal letter, SCB RN!

Your article inspired me to do a little more research on Ms. Nightingale and, generally speaking, she was what I would call a "Renaissance Woman"! Not only did she in improve the conditions of hospitalized soldiers during the Crimean War, she worked with data visualization, infographics, statistical graphics, and showed a good amount of interest in mysticism!

Ms. Nightingale "used methods such as the pie chart, which had first been developed by William Playfair in 1801. While taken for granted now, it was at the time a relatively novel method of presenting data".

I tried to visualize Ms.  Nightingale actually reading your letter, SCB RN, and this is the image that came to mind:




Thank you, SCB RN for a great article and experience!


Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

A very well written post about where the field went in 2020. Certainly no one in January of last year could have imagined what we would go through over the next 18 months, but we as nurses, along with other health care professionals, have certainly risen to the challenge in order to provide the best of care for our patients, their families, and the general public. Leading by example is an important part of who we are, thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

Dear Florence,

Come get your people. It's pure chaos!