Remembering Florence Nightingale

Nurses are celebrating the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who was born on May 12, two hundred and three years ago. The year of 2020 was her 200th birthday, the year to be celebrated world wide as the “Year of the Nurse”, designated by the World Health Organization. LIttle did the WHO know what the year 2020 would have in store for the nurses celebrating the birthday of Nightingale.

This year I am celebrating on my own, as a self-employed, entrepreneur coach, with forty years nursing experience. I am celebrating my resilience, my servitude, and my tenaciousness. My most joyful moments were serving nurses in facilitating programs for their personal growth and professional leadership development. My most rewarding moments were companioning those who were suffering and their families, being with them on their journey, not doing to, or for, but being with.

My most traumatizing moments happened in being with a nurse manager. Not just one, but most nurse managers. This was the situation when I could feel my nervous system contracting, and the knots in my stomach. These were the moments I found I had lost my voice, with words being stuck in my throat, not being able to speak.

Graduating from college, the one instructor I remember most, was the one who advised her group of nurses to not wear a cap, and to never ever get up from the chair to let a physician have your seat when he walked into the nurses station. This same instructor had my back a few times in advocating for me. I knew she truly wished for me to succeed, to make it through the new BSN program. I often wonder how different my nursing career would have been had it not been for her being there with me, and for me. She exemplified caring.

However the current nursing crisis is resolved, the crisis brings opportunity. A new system will emerge, when we let the old frameworks die. Many of our systems as we know them are in chaos. The energy of the systems being stressed does not go away, but is pushed into chaos, similar to the chaotic and dysregulated nervous system when our bodies have experienced a traumatic event.

While we are in this liminal space, feel the grief of what was and will never be again – the old frameworks, the old processes, and old ways of being, the old systems that are no longer working, if they ever really did work. In this liminal space, let us pay attention to what emerges in each and every moment as we as nurses turn to cultivating intuition, patience, and ingenuity. Let us not attempt to “fix broken systems’, but summon entirely new worlds.

Quoting Bayo Akomolafe “slow down in urgent times, to listen deeply, to be keen, to be fresh, to be quick with our heels, to follow the sights, sounds, smells, of the world”. The times are urgent.

There is a need for the wise elders to create and hold such spaces. This is how I remember my instructor in my nursing program. The future is unfolding in the present moment. Pay attention.

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