As we celebrate Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday in 2020, I’ve thought about how proud she would be of HCA Healthcare’s nurses and our collective focus on advancing the practice of nursing. In fact, I’ve worked on a series of articles highlighting how many of our nursing strategic priorities follow her priorities for compassionate care. 

Last week, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Stacie Miller, Chief Nursing Officer at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital in San Antonio, wrote a moving piece about the selfless dedication of our nurses. I cannot think of a better way to kick off our Nightingale article series than to share Stacie’s words with you all. Much like Florence, we find ourselves not only caring for the sick, but also carrying our lamps to a scared and anxious community – a calming force in the midst of an unpredictable storm.  

Jane Englebright, Ph.D., RN, CENP, FAAN, HCA Healthcare senior vice president and chief nurse executive

Jane Englebright, Ph.D., RN, CENP, FAAN

Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive

Imagine this scene: 

Stacie Miller, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, Chief Nursing Officer at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital

You and 34 of your fellow RNs walk into a hospital surrounded by rancid, contaminated waste. Patients lay in their own excrement on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways while rodents and bugs scurry past them. The most basic supplies such as bandages and soap are increasingly scarce as the number of ill and wounded steadily pour through the hospital doors. Water must be rationed and patients are everywhere dying from infection.

This is the very situation Florence Nightingale and 34 of her nursing colleagues found themselves in 1854 during the Crimean war. Although this scene would have deterred most, Nightingale and her nurses seized the opportunity to fulfill their calling and minister to the sick. Not only did they care for the ill and wounded, they procured hundreds of scrub brushes and took to scrubbing the inside of the hospital to prevent further infections. The work was both long and grueling, but their selfless commitment to caring for their patients was greater.

Nightingale herself spent every waking minute ensuring a safe, sanitary environment and caring for the wounded and sick soldiers. At night she moved through the dark hallways of the hospital carrying a lamp while continually making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. The soldiers were both moved and comforted by her selflessness and endless supply of compassion that they fondly referred to her as “the Lady with the Lamp.”

I have no doubt that the day Florence Nightingale and the 34 nurses with her walked into that unimaginable scene they were filled with a certain measure of fear and anxiety. Not unlike the way most of us feel today. We are in the midst of a scene most of us could have never imagined.

I can’t help but think of the words Florence Nightingale spoke 150 years ago, “it will take 150 years for the world to realize the full value and contribution of the professional nurse.” Is it possible Florence had a glimpse into the future? Did she know that our world would be subject to a virus that would stretch the medical community beyond its limits? I’m not sure. But I do know that she accurately predicted the future. During this trying time it is nurses that are on the front lines, walking into the unknown once again, to selflessly minister to the sick with an endless supply of compassion. We may not carry lamps through dark hallways but we are the light to a scared and anxious community – a calming force in the midst of an unpredictable storm.

I openly acknowledge that our current situation seems to have more unknowns than knowns and the rapid changes can feel overwhelming. You are not alone. We join a strong team of highly skilled professional nurses across the globe and like Ms. Nightingale and her 34 colleagues, we will lean in and be a light in the darkness. We will continue to compassionately and selflessly serve humanity and our valuable contribution will have saved the world.

I am grateful for each and every one of you and your contribution to our mission. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

Stacie Miller, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN

Chief Nursing Officer

Methodist Stone Oak Hospital