Are We Walking to the Future or to the Past? A Retrospective Analysis of Professional Nursing during the Pandemic of 2020, Dating back to the Crimean War, 1853-1856

Christine M. Silverstein


This retrospective analysis, based on facts derived from contemporary news media, videos, and journal articles, scrutinizes a White House televised ceremony that celebrated National Nurses Day on May 6, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the #MeToo movement. On the surface, it appears that nurses were honored by the President, but a deeper look beneath reveals otherwise. This historian explores two pivotal moments during the ceremony that changed the focus from a celebration to a campaign event, which occurred when a female nurse practitioner stepped out of line to posit that personal protective equipment was “sporadic” and President Trump’s reaction to it. Although counterintuitive, queries arise as to whether the Commander-in-Chief celebrated professional nursing or denigrated it, as nurses kowtowed to authoritarian rule and unwittingly abandoned the time-honored principles of facts, science, and caring in professional nursing extant since its inception.

Retrospectively, documents from archives are examined and the biographies of two transformational leaders, Hildegard Peplau and Florence Nightingale. These questions are asked: In 2020 how would they uphold their high standards and teachings today that set the stage for the evolution of professional nursing? What role would therapeutic interpersonal interactions of caring in nursing play in the 21st century?

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Copyright (c) 2020 Christine M. Silverstein

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