2020 – The Year of the Nurse, in more ways than one

 Estephanie Dunn 4 Jan 2021

In years to come, when we look back on 2020 and the global pandemic that swept away so many lives and livelihoods, I wonder what lessons will have been learnt. 

It is natural at a time of national grief and crisis to focus on the devastation that has been wrought, the mistakes that have been made, the lives that have been lost or irrevocably altered. And such reflection is not just to be expected, it is essential. 

I wonder though whether the most important lesson we can learn from this painful period is that the human race has an undimmable capacity for resilience, for ingenuity, for hope and for love. Nowhere have those characteristics been more apparent than within our profession. The willingness of our nurses and frontline workers to put themselves in harm’s way to help the sick and the dying is a lesson to the world on selflessness and self-sacrifice. So many of you have endured months away from your family to allow you to tend to the strangers who continue to flood into our hospitals or the elderly and vulnerable in our care homes. Student nurses bravely stepped up to face a test that nothing could have prepared them for and thousands of you came back to the profession to provide the invaluable experience and knowledge that was so deeply needed. 

You fill the roles of carer, friend and family when loved ones cannot be there, provide love and comfort in those last moments of life. You are the eyes and the ears for a world locked outside and have endured your own personal and professional grief and loss whilst still soldiering on for the greater good. 

2020 was designated the WHO Year of the Nurse and it could not have been a more fitting choice. 

So, we step into a new year with the weight of the pandemic still upon us. An exhausted and depleted workforce must continue to summon the strength to battle through the coming winter months and all the personal privations that brings. But hope is on the horizon and once again it is nurses who are the cavalry leading the charge. Week by week, the vaccine roll-out will bring us closer to a return to ‘normal’ life, if such a thing indeed exists. We can face the coming twelve months with true belief that this year can and will be better than the last. And once we are through the worst that the winter can bring then we will gather ourselves once more for another fight – the battle to get Fair Pay for Nursing. We need to build back ‘better’ for nursing and for the communities we serve. The normal that got us here, through austerity and inequality, will not be good enough.

We have been working throughout the pandemic to force the government to recognise the true extent of the nation’s reliance on the nursing profession and to provide appropriate recompense in the form of a 12.5% pay rise. We have the public’s support and are working tirelessly to engage with our MPs to take our argument to the heart of government. We are grateful to those who have and will join us for our online meetings with our region’s MPs and would urge you all to engage with the process wherever you can. The meetings held so far have been highly successful, engaging new supporters and strengthening existing ties. Your support with our wider campaign is invaluable and can be as simple as a few moments spent signing our online petition and sharing it amongst your family and friends. Applause cannot pay the bills - we need concrete action and the time to demand it is now. 

The world was forced to move online in other ways this year and I hope you feel that we have provided you with the opportunity to continue to engage with us, both regionally and nationally. Our branches have developed a ‘new normal’ in holding their meetings and AGM online and, again, I would encourage you to attend if you possibly can. No doubt that fatigue, both physical and with online activity, can mean that this feels like a big ask. But your voice and input is critical in providing the evidence we need to support your needs at the highest level and your branch meetings are the most effective way of doing so.

Many of you will have felt the loss of this year’s Congress for that reason. Our online Congress was an important and useful tool for connecting us but nothing can replace the energy that gathering together can bring. We are all working hard to put in place plans for a return to Liverpool for Congress 2021 with the hope that at some point next year we can meet in person. The situation does, of course, remain fluid so we will keep you updated as our plans develop. 

Hope also remains high for a return to other face-to-face events at some point later in the year but, for now, we content ourselves with our virtual world. In the past couple of months we were delighted with the attendance at our online regional Black History Month event, with the appearance by Anna Rothery, the first black woman to become Lord Mayor of Liverpool, a particularly inspiring highlight of our day. 

In November we also celebrated the often unsung heroes of the nursing profession, our Nursing Support Workers. There are over 1.3million NSW in the UK but rarely does this vital role receive the recognition that your skills and contribution deserve. It was an honour to be able to pay tribute to your service and we plan to build on this celebration next year. On this subject, can I take this opportunity to welcome and introduce you to Sunday Babanumi, the newly appointed North West representative on the NSW Committee. To find out more about the work of the Committee and to share your views, ideas or concerns, please email Governance Support.

For us all, the year ahead is one full of uncertainty but qualified optimism. Where we will be and what will we have experienced by this time next year is hard to predict. But one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that we will be here to support you, to listen to you and to fight for you. 2020 might have been the official Year of the Nurse but I believe that together we will prove that 2021 is too. 

As I sign off, I want to thank those Board and Branch officials who have reached the end of their term of office. We will be introducing the new officials to you all in the new year.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. 

Estephanie Dunn

Estephanie Dunn

Regional Director, RCN North West

Estephanie Dunn has a lifelong background in nursing, spanning the independent sector and NHS. Prior to becoming Regional Director for the RCN North West Region in August 2014, Estephanie worked as the Operational Manager for the RCN’s Northern Region.


Page last updated - 04/01/2021