2020: The Year of the Nurse

Stigma keeps us silent, while unrealistic expectations promote bravado. But we’re not doing ourselves any favors with this facade of invincibility.

Nurses have been recognized for a week each year in May since the early 1990s.

This year’s even better. Every single one of the 366 days in 2020, dedicated to us! (Yep, it’s a leap year!)

In honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed 2020:


I might be a tad biased, but if anyone deserves a whole year of devotion, it’s me and my nurse peeps.

#YON2020 isn’t just an excuse to eat birthday cake with Nurse Flo’s name on it. The WHO intends to advance nurses’ vital position in transforming healthcare around the world.

Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services…They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

I’m on board with boosting legislation that results in Universal Health Care, but my agenda is a little different; I’m concerned with the health of nurses themselves.

So when I first heard the phrase “Year of the Nurse” this is what (and who) came to my mind:

  • Critical Care colleagues physically exhausted, facing moral distress
  • Colleagues in recovery fighting to keep their license, sobriety and lives intact
  • Nursing students who are ill-prepared for the sacrifice their careers will demand

I thought of the secret shame so many of us harbor, overwhelmed with life and work but desperate to keep anyone from thinking we’re weak. We even hide from our coworkers, despite our shared experience which could foster deep connections if we felt empowered to let down our walls.

Professional Burnout is an epidemic, alcoholism runs rampant, and substance use disorder – specifically opiate abuse – is a personal crisis many of us are facing.

The problems span the profession, yet the subjects remain taboo. Schools, employers and administration do little toward prevention, intervention, education or treatment. Stigma keeps us silent, while unrealistic expectations promote bravado. But we’re not doing ourselves any favors with this facade of invincibility.

And we definitely don’t do each other any favors by limiting this conversation to gossips and pejoratives.

I’m on a mission. Changing the narrative by sharing my own story of breaking under industry pressure. No more “Superhero Nurse” storyline, expecting the protagonist nurse to heal the world and walk away, sparkling white scrubs intact.

The way forward is through truth-telling and story sharing.

So this “Year of the Nurse,” let’s end the silence to end the stigma. I’m showcasing women and men in my industry who have withstood personal and professional nightmares such as job burnout, addiction, lateral violence and license revocation. With courageous vulnerability, they are speaking up,  transforming their darkest moments into pillars of light.

These are Nurses who have fought their demons and won.

These are caregivers I consider the ultimate Nurse Heroes.

Check out the first

Year of the Nurse Spotlight: Brittany

“I have taken my life back from booze.”



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