The World Health Organization has dedicated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to commemorate the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.


Florence Nightingale is called the “Lady with the Lamp” because she was known to check on soldiers throughout the night during the Crimean War. She can also be thanked for the sanitary reforms she spearheaded for military and civilian hospitals to prevent infection.


Although we celebrate nurses every single day at the University of Florida College of Nursing, this year our profession has an entire year, worldwide, dedicated to showing how important our contributions are to health care and to society. And it could not come at a more crucial time.


Caring for patients affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) puts nurses on the front lines. Nurses fear this contagious virus and its potential threat to loved ones just like everyone else, but we know there is a job to do in providing care and leading the way in ensuring the virus is contained.


Despite a national shortage, nurses have always maintained visibility on the front lines no matter where health care is required. This has become more apparent during this spring’s legislative session, during which Florida lawmakers considered a bill that would authorize autonomous practice for nurse practitioners.


In March, the bill was officially passed and signed into law on March 11 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. This bill, which will go into effect July 1, is important partly due to the implications it will have in rural areas, where there is a lack of health care facilities and providers.


This bill will now give nurse practitioners a wider scope of practice, including in locations where there is often a dearth of health care. More on this subject will be provided in an upcoming guest column by Dr. Denise Schentrup, the clinic director of Archer Family Health Care, the UF College of Nursing’s nurse-managed clinic.


In addition to the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, this year is also the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the United States. Traditionally nursing has been a female-dominated profession (91% of nurses in the US today are women), so we are proud to recognize the advancements women have made throughout history. The year 2020 certainly gives us a lot to celebrate and much for which to be thankful.


Although a lot has changed in health care, nurses remain true to the standards Florence Nightingale set in place almost 200 years ago. As nurses, we naturally want to help people and fix problems. But at the UF College of Nursing, we know our true place is not just in helping or fixing, but in serving others.


It is my hope and belief that we model and teach our students how to serve as nurses, instilling our core values in our Gator nurses, especially those preparing to graduate and enter the field of service.


I look forward to a year full of celebrating nurses and our many contributions to individuals, families and communities. Nurses Week, held May 6-12 every year, will give us further opportunity for celebration. I hope you will join us in thanking a nurse and supporting our dedication to providing care and serving others.


Anna M. McDaniel, PhD, RN, FAAN, is dean and the Linda Harman Aiken professor at the UF College of Nursing.