Today is International Nurses Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, in honour of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

This year, in particular, gives greater meaning to the word “nurse”. In a world infected with Covid19, nurses have demonstrated how crucial and essential they are to our health care system. Nurses have made tremendous sacrifices in their personal lives to ensure we stay safe. They have missed countless precious hours with their loved ones, in order for us to eventually get back to normal.

Worldwide, there have been over 280,000 Covid19 related deaths. On April 15, 2020, a report released by the London School of Economics, stated that between 42 percent to 57 percent of Covid19 deaths had been linked to care homes. In Canada, more than 5000 Covid19 related deaths have been reported to date. More than half that number make up long term care facilities. Nurses who work in residential and long-term facilities care have been critical in lowering those numbers.

Home nurses, home care nurses, medical caregivers, and home health care nurses play an essential role in delivering care to residents safely and with dignity. They have an understanding that teamwork and family dynamics play a symbiotic role. They walk the delicate balance of traditional hospital care with the independence and quality of life their patients’ demand. Nurses are the backbone of these facilities.

With critical shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), nurses at these facilities have had to work with a bare minimum. They have had to stretch what they have, putting themselves and patients at risk. With a shortage of nurses, work hours have doubled which led to nurses coming out of retirement.

One of these nurses who came out of retirement to help her community with the COVID19 pandemic is a woman named Marg Miller.

Marg is an 85-year-old woman from New Brunswick who had worked as a nurse for more than 35 years. She spent 12 of those years working as a geriatric nurse at the Villa Renaissance Nursing home. Late March, Marg felt a calling to help despite her fears of Covid19. Her family was very apprehensive about her going back to work but she was determined to help. She returned as head nurse at the home. The nursing staff at Villa Renaissance call her their anchor. Marg understands that she is a senior and is in good health but is taking all the precautions to protect herself and residents.

I believe WHO was right to aptly name 2020 the year of the nurses. They are not only the backbone of our healthcare system, they also play an integral part in providing proven health solutions. Their desire to help others never goes away, even after retirement. Nurses deserve this day and so much more for protecting us especially in times like these. They are our superheroes.