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Nurses Are Health Care Heroes During Coronavirus — and Beyond

It's National Nurses Week and we're relying on them more than ever

 jo ann jenkins  c e o of a a r p

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

En español | 2020 was declared the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife long before the coronavirus mushroomed into a global pandemic. But this crisis has magnified the important role of nurses in providing care. It has shown us that they are our health care heroes.

May 6-12 has been designated as National Nurses Week to recognize nurses not only for their incredible and invaluable service in providing care, but also to bring attention to their expanding role in delivering health care and the need to expand the pipeline for bringing more nurses into the system.

In addition to serving on the front lines in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices, nurses also are woven into the fabric of communities in ways other health care professionals are not — in schools, workplaces, homes, assisted-living facilities, prisons and other places. They are not only the largest health care profession, they are the most trusted and as such are well prepared to address the social determinants of health (e.g., loneliness and isolation) that have emerged as important factors in combating COVID-19.

During this time, we have been fortunate to have Catherine Alicia Georges, Ed.D., RN, FAAN, as AARP's national volunteer president. In 2019, the American Academy of nurses named her a Living Legend (the organization's highest honor) for her extraordinary contributions to the nursing profession and lifelong support for nursing and its role in improving America's health, Thanks to advocates such as Alicia, the nursing field and today's nurses are well prepared to meet challenges we face during this crisis and help the public like never before.

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AARP has been a long-time advocate for expanding the role of nurses to be allowed to contribute to the full extent of their capabilities. Which is why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP and AARP Foundation came together a decade ago to create the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA) and the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

Through this initiative, we have helped to transform the nursing profession. For example, today, millions of people in 22 states and the District of Columbia have direct access to nurse practitioners who can provide full care. We have helped increase the number of minority students and broaden the composition of the profession to match the country's diverse population. Since we began, the number of minority RN graduates has grown 43 percent. And, in terms of nursing education, 57 percent of nurses now hold a bachelor's degree in nursing.

As we salute our nation's 4 million nurses for their service and their sacrifices during this difficult time, we also look beyond the pandemic to leverage the skills, perspectives and trust that nurses have gained — as well as their key role in health care delivery — and to help ensure that everyone in America has access to a highly skilled nurse. The U.S. National Academy of Medicine soon will release a “Report on the Future of Nursing 2020-2030,” which will chart a path for the nursing profession into the next decade.

So, this National Nurses Week, please join all of us at AARP as we celebrate their skill, respect their experience and continue our work to enhance the presence and contributions of nurses in the world of medicine, our communities and our lives.

I urge you to participate in AARP's new Thank You campaign to recognize these dedicated workers by sharing our — and your — gratitude for a job well done. To say thank you, just send photos and/or videos of what you and your family (in self-quarantine) are doing to show your appreciation to Please include your full name, location, email address and description of the image/video today, and your submission may be selected to be used in an AARP Thank You project.

To nurses everywhere, we thank you for your exceptional work — and salute you as true health care heroes.

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