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Voice of the President | September 2020

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in so many different ways. The lingering uncertainty, the toll on our well-being, and the way that we deliver health care is forever changed. As resourceful as nurse leaders are, we are not immune to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Our ability to innovate, mobilize, advise our communities and advocate for our staff has been remarkable. Since March, I have been privileged to witness firsthand the incredible collaboration and leadership of nurses across the country in response to this ongoing threat to our nation’s health.

I want to recognize the entire nursing workforce whose lives have been impacted in ways that we could not have imagined. Nurses are living apart from their families in the hopes of keeping them healthy. They themselves are becoming ill with the coronavirus, and while many have thankfully recovered, there have been some who have not. Yet, nurses remain committed to their patients and their communities, which is why I remain humbled and honored as your AONL president. I extend my heartfelt thanks to you and the nurses in your organizations for your enduring leadership and commitment to our mission during this unprecedented time.

In this issue of the Voice of Nursing Leadership, we are publishing articles related to innovative practices nurse leaders have implemented in response to COVID-19. We are hopeful these articles will be useful to nurse leaders as we continue to lead through the pandemic. 

The complexity and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to think differently in every area of operations and leadership. In my own organization, I have seen nurses operationalize drive-through testing tents, manage command centers, develop new staffing models and open new units in spaces not originally intended for continued patient care. They also created respiratory care centers, trained staff on proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, creatively developed methods for patient and family interaction, acted as a source of accurate information for news agencies and operationalized a staffing hub to redeploy the clinical and nonclinical workforce! All the while, these nurses never lost sight of the most important thing we do, which is to deliver much needed care and compassion to some of the sickest patients we have ever seen. Although it is frightening, there is no profession better equipped than nursing to lead through this pandemic.  

Although it is frightening, there is no profession better equipped than nursing to lead through this pandemic.

During this time, I have served as a member of the Task Force on COVID-19 Pathways to Recovery of the American Hospital Association (AHA) Board of Trustees. Led by Melinda Estes, MD, president and CEO of Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Mo., the task force consists of many health system and hospital leaders from across the country. As the president of AONL, I bring the voice of nursing leadership to this important discussion. The task force is charged with giving advice, counsel and strategic direction to AHA staff efforts in providing resources to assist in the resumption of all hospital and clinic services which have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force also is charged with providing thought leadership to the AHA relative to all pending economic, clinical and community relationship challenges anticipated due to the pandemic’s impact. A work plan will be developed by the task force to guide the AHA in the months ahead, including the timeframe when a vaccine might be generally available to the public in a quantity great enough to provide coverage for our population.  

To accomplish these objectives, task force members are provided resources such as reference documents, consultation with experts in related knowledge fields, academicians and practitioners. Our virtual meetings occur frequently. The task force also uses regional forums, special constituency group dialogues and other opportunities to gather substantive input from across the country. The work of the task force is reported to the AHA Board of Trustees and will inform any refinements to the AHA strategic plan in the months ahead. 

Over a period of months, the task force has compiled resources to assist members as clinical services are reintroduced. The guidance is based on current science and governmental regulations; as these evolve, updates will be published. The AHA is providing segments of the document’s contents through various education/communication channels to targeted audiences, in addition to making the full 99-page document available on its website for AONL and AHA members.  

Contents are organized to provide specific information by function and discipline within our hospitals and clinics. Readers can find resources, checklists and planning consideration details on the AHA website covering workforce considerations, testing and contract tracing, data collection and infrastructure, internal and external communications, supply chain, ancillary and support services, plant operations and environment of care, financial management, governance considerations, patient experience, transitions of care and risk management. Also included are specific best practice examples from across AHA member sites. This resource complements AONL’s Leading Through Crisis Compendium, which includes webinars on staffing for patient surges and written materials to help nurse leaders care for their staffs.  

The AHA task force will continue to monitor the environment and update the guidance routinely. The next phase of our work includes assessing the state of conditions relative to the public health relationship with the care delivery system, progress towards vaccination and therapeutics, new science contributions to our response to the pandemic and contributing to the reimagining and rebuilding phase of the journey. 

I am honored to serve as a nurse leader on this task force, and the experience has been humbling. Nursing’s voice is so important during this time. I have relied on our AONL board, AONL staff and other nursing colleagues to provide input to this important work. If you have a best practice or issue that you would like to include please do not hesitate to send them my way. 

As the models indicate, COVID-19 will be our reality for many more months, if not years, to come. Thank you for your leadership of the world’s most trusted and needed profession during this pivotal time. 

Strong, influential nurse leadership is so important right now. If you are in a position to consider taking the next step in your personal and professional development, I encourage you to apply for the 2021 AONL Nurse Manager, Director and Executive Fellowship programs. In each program, nurse leaders work to strengthen their current skills, acquire new competencies and continue lifelong learning needed to develop the next generation of successful nurse executives. The application period extends through Nov. 2 and is a wonderful way to continue to strengthen your skills and learn some new ones. Visit the AONL website for application information. 

And finally, speaking of learning new things, I am excited to invite you to join me and your fellow leaders on September 24 for our first AONL Virtual Annual Conference. It promises to be a full day of content with keynote speakers, educational sessions, an exhibit hall and networking opportunities. You won’t want to miss it!  

About the Author

AONL Board President Mary Ann Fuchs, DNP, RN, BEA-BC, FAAN, is vice president of patient care & system chief nurse executive, Duke University Health System, associate dean of clinical affairs, Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, N.C.