Chief Nursing Officer: Our nurses shine in COVID-19 response

When the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and Midwife in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, no one could have predicted it would coincide with an unprecedented global pandemic, COVID-19. However, the convergence of these two events should not be lost on us. Now, more than ever, 2020 has brought into focus just how important nurses are across the world and here in Texas.

As a nurse with experience in emergency management and preparedness, I’ve helped hospitals navigate a series of catastrophic events – some natural, some man-made. I was on duty in New York when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast in 2012, and I cared for victims on and after 9/11. Most recently, I helped guide MD Anderson through Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

And now, as I see the crises faced by my colleagues nationally and the struggles we face here in Houston during the coronavirus pandemic, I’m reminded of the way nurses always rise to the occasion, charging on, ready to fight another day.

While our lives have changed, the resilience and resolve displayed by our nurses has not. Since Nightingale first summarized and published the principles of modern professional nursing, the world has depended upon nurses for their ability to combine and balance technical expertise with the highest level of compassion. That balance allows nurses to adapt to change and work under pressure, while guiding the patient to achieve their health care goals. This time is no different.

Nurses have many roles during COVID-19 response

Across MD Anderson, our team of 3,900+ nurses have embraced the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Every day, I witness our nurses choose to be empowered by factual information as they navigate this uncharted territory along the front lines of patient care. More than 140 nurses eagerly volunteered to join an interdisciplinary team that provides care for our COVID-19-positive cancer patients, dedicating themselves to helping people in their time of need. Others volunteered to work at MD Anderson testing locations, providing reassurance to patients and colleagues during this time of uncertainty.

And when MD Anderson, like many other institutions, made the tough decision to restrict all visitors, our nurses stepped in to provide the human connection that patients need to help them heal.

Our nurse educators have worked days, nights and weekends to provide in-depth training to frontline staff on how to care for COVID-19 positive oncology patients while maintaining safety by properly donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE). Similarly, our nurse researchers have helped patients maintain their adherence to clinical trials protocols. Others have worked behind the scenes to create innovative tools and processes for ensuring we have enough staff across the hospital.  

Magnet designation speaks to our nursing community’s strengths

This year also happens to mark a different milestone for our nursing community. We recently received word from the American Nurses Credentialing Center that we will have our ANCC Magnet Program onsite visit this summer. The last major step in our quest for a fifth Magnet Recognition Program designation is a testament to our nursing community’s perseverance and commitment to providing world-class care.

MD Anderson is among 1% of hospitals nationwide that have earned four consecutive Magnet designations. Magnet designation is the highest international distinction for nursing excellence and provides patients with the ultimate benchmark for measuring quality of care. Organizations must reapply for Magnet recognition every four years by providing documented evidence of meeting ANCC's Magnet standards.

Nurses share a calling to help others

It’s an honor to lead our MD Anderson community of nurses, whose level of expertise and dedication is palpable and extraordinary as evidenced by the excellent care they provide to our patients.

But for our nurses “it’s who they are and what they do.” Today and every day, our nursing community at MD Anderson stands united with our colleagues across the country and around the world, as we are all bound together by this calling to help those in their time of need.

Together, we will always rise to the occasion.

Carol Porter, D.N.P., is MD Anderson’s Chief Nursing Officer.

Learn more about MD Anderson’s COVID-19 response.