Nurses Week at WGNO: Ochsner Hospital & the spirit of Florence Nightingale

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OCHSNER MEDICAL CENTER, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– Today we celebrate National Nurse Week. Florence Nightingale became the founder of nursing, when she opened up her nursing school in London in 1860. She would be known as the “Lady with the Lamp.” She was lighting the way for the men and women who would follow her path.

Early last year, the World Health Organization designated the year 2020 as “the year of the nurse and midwife.” However, months ago, the world was blind to what was coming. Little did we know that the year dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, would come in and test the strength of the world and world’s hospitals. Here we stand roughly halfway through 2020 in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.

There are over seven thousand nurses who work at the Ochsner Health System across Louisiana. Keri Blouin is an infection control nurse. She helps to make sure hospital employees are following basic principles of how to keep infection from spreading. Her job was especially challenging in the first few weeks, when the hospitals were expecting the arrival of coronavirus patients. Some hospitals, like Ochsner found out, that they already had coronavirus patients admitted, they just didn’t know it yet. The field was changing constantly as the CDC and the various world leaders grappled with how to give direction for something that was an entirely new threat.

“I remember in the beginning, nurses would cry and then it would come up that one of them had held this man’s hand last night when he passed away. You realize that yes, we are dealing with all these changes the best we can, but we as nurses, are also taking on this tremendous emotional weight. Our guidelines were changing every single day. I was having to go and make rounds and tell the nurses what the new guidelines were going to be today,” says nurse Keri Blouin.

Keri is part of a great family tradition. Her mother and grandmother are nurses and also part of the grand legacy of Florence Nightingale, shared by all the nurses in world. But despite their beautiful courage and humility, Keri offers advice that is good enough for anyone, whether you are a health professional or not, saying, “you can’t really be great unless you are put into a situation where you have the opportunity to be great or not be great in. Nursing is a calling. We don’t do it for the money. We come back day after day because we care.”

Dedicate a prayer, a thought or some positive energy to the direction of nurses on today. Right now, the world needs 18 million more health workers to sustain universal health coverage until 2030. 50% percent of the shortage are nurses.