Jane Englebright, senior vice president and chief nurse executive for HCA Healthcare shares how Florence Nightingale’s legacy and values are still applicable today in the fight against COVID-19.
(Left) English nursing pioneer, healthcare reformer and Crimean War heroine Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910); (Right) HCA Healthcare cardiovascular (CV) intensive care unit (ICU) nurse Lucy Sebastian serves patients at Westside Regional Hospital (2020).

2020 was deemed “Year of the Nurse” by the World Health Organization, and as 2020 progressed, our world experienced an unprecedented pandemic, COVID-19, that demonstrated the true essence of the nursing practice. With COVID-19 at the forefront of every news story, business plan and personal conversation, nurses and caregivers across the globe began to see a celebration of their commitment to patient care and the fight against COVID-19.

Dr. Jane Englebright, senior vice president and chief nurse executive at HCA Healthcare / Image by Ron Manville

Originally, the “Year of the Nurse” was designated to recognize the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale and her contribution to nursing practice, but as the global pandemic progressed, it has turned into a celebration of caregivers across the globe as well as a recognition of the contributions made by Nightingale. Although healthcare has changed significantly since Nightingale created her fundamental practices of nursing, many of those foundational building blocks are still pertinent today. Infection prevention, patient-centered care and a relentless focus on safety for all who enter our care facilities continue to play a major role in the fight against COVID-19.

A closer examination of Nightingale’s principles seems to be an appropriate celebration of her contribution to nursing practice and a testament of the work carried out by HCA Healthcare’s nurses every day.

Nightingale understood the importance of infection prevention. During the Crimean War, more soldiers died of infection than of trauma.   Her infection prevention efforts included regularly emptying chamber pots, bathing and eating nutritious foods. She supported and implemented regular housekeeping, facility maintenance and laundry services to reduce hospital-acquired infections and other preventable illnesses.

In today’s world, infection prevention remains a cornerstone in healthcare, and at HCA Healthcare, we realize it is one of the most important ways we can keep patients and colleagues safe. From reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) to the implementation of the Sepsis Prediction and Optimization of Therapy (SPOT), universal protection framework to prevent the transmission of illnesses such as COVID-19 in our facilities, and new guidance and training available for the Environmental Services teams, we continue to build, expand and innovate – furthering Nightingale’s focus across the HCA Healthcare enterprise.

Another principle at the crux of Nightingale’s approach was providing patient-centered care. Nightingale defined behavioral techniques to focus a nurses’ on the patient through listening and responding to physical and emotional needs.  Likewise, HCA Healthcare’s values focus on the intrinsic value of each individual. The culture fostered at HCA Healthcare promotes treating each patient with dignity, compassion and excellence.

Finally, Nightingale maintained a strong focus on safety.  She created the coxcomb diagram to make data on performance and outcomes understandable and actionable within the hospital. The rapid deployment of NATE tools across HCA Healthcare during the COVID-19 response is equally impactful to improving quality and safety today.

As the celebration and recognition for the “Year of the Nurse” continues, it is obvious that the contributions Nightingale made 200 years ago remain relevant to today. I truly believe she would be proud of the work being done today to protect patients – and the focused, compassionate caregivers continuing her legacy today.

Florence Nightingale distinguished herself for bravery and ingenuity while caring for wounded soldiers during the 1853-1856 Crimean War.

Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising 186 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 21 states and the United Kingdom.