200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale spurs international celebration; Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing leads Northeast Ohio commemoration

The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing is collaborating with nurses in academic and clinical centers across Northeast Ohio to mark 2020 as “The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”

They’ll kick off the yearlong celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the Samson Pavilion of the Health Education Campus (HEC) at Case Western Reserve University. In the months that follow, there will be events at more than two dozen participating universities, hospitals and other health care organizations in Northeast Ohio. 

The Tuesday afternoon event at the HEC will include remarks from U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, a Geauga County Republican who is co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus. Joyce will be introduced by Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder.

In 2019, Joyce co-sponsored the “Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act,” bipartisan legislation that would renew support for the largest portion of federal funding for a host of nursing programs. It was approved unanimously in the House in October and next heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Nurses are the backbone of our nation’s health care system,” Joyce said in a news release. “As the proud husband of a nurse, I know full-well that any challenge facing our nurses hurts the health and well-being of America’s patient population.”

The Year of the Nurse and Midwife is aligned with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, and provides a platform from which organizers say they want to tell their stories.

366 days of nursing stories

The organizers for Northeast Ohio Year of the Nurse are posting daily written and video testimonials from nursing leaders from the region and they are accepting additional submissions online.

Photo of Carol M. Musil

The first, posted on New Year’s Day was from Carol Musil, the Edward J. and Louise Mellen Professor and dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and grand chair of the NEO Year of the Nurse steering group.

In her video to kick off the yearlong program, Musil says that Nightingale’s “work continues today as a north star to guide and advance quality health care”—pointing out that while history may see Nightingale as “just a nurse,” she was also an epidemiologist and statistician.

In another video, Patricia Sharpnack—dean and Strawbridge Professor at The Breen School of Nursing at Ursuline College—talks about the experiences in coronary and medical intensive care, home care and maternal-child nursing that “have kept her passionate about nursing for more than 40 years.”

Steering committee tri-chair, Sharpnack is joined by Joan Kavanagh, associate chief nursing officer for the Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development at Cleveland Clinic and Rebecca M. Patton, the Lucy Jo Atkinson Professor in Perioperative Nursing at the Case Western Reserve nursing school.

The ‘vast discipline’ of nursing

“Innovations are happening every day in science and health care and in order to keep up, nurses need to keep seeking new knowledge, gaining a different perspective, learning about clinical innovations and interventions and so much more,” Musil said. “And because nursing is a vast discipline, there is a lot to learn and know in order for us to be better providers and to lead change.”

Musil said it is imperative to continue to provide continuing education opportunities for working nurses who are seeking to advance in their careers or improve on existing skills.

Patton said the varied nursing jobs that make up this “vast discipline” is what the nursing group wants to convey to the public this year.

In the U.S., there are more than 4 million nurses working many types of positions—from bedside nurses to lawyers to CEOs and construction project managers; each position is just as important as the next to advance health of the nation, Patton said.

The declaration of 2020 as The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, by the World Health Organization (WHO), asserts the world will need 9 million more nurses and midwives to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

The organization is also producing the first-ever “State of the World’s Nursing report,” which will be released prior to the 73rd WHO World Health Assembly in May.

For more information, visit the WHO website.


For more information, contact Mike Scott at mike.scott@case.edu