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COVID-19 Pandemic Showcasing Evolved Role Of Nurses, Local Expert Says

The World Health Organization is calling 2020 the “Year of the Nurse” to commemorate Florence Nightingale, a nursing pioneer born 200 years ago.

In a virtual City Club of Cleveland forum Friday, May Wykle, a long-time nurse and former dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Nursing, discussed the evolving roles of nurses.

“It’s ironic that in the ‘Year of the Nurse,’ the nurses have been the standout caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

During this time, she said, frontline nurses have been the ones developing close relationships with COVID patients, who often are feeling isolated and alone.

“They’re making sure that someone’s at the bedside with the patient, and that’s where the nurse-patient relationship is so important because they can’t see their families, but the nurse helps them communicate with their families," Wykle said.

Another way the profession has evolved is in where nurses are practicing. Wykle said she’d like to see more nurses outside of hospitals and in the community.

“That’s one of the things that you’ll see is nurse practitioners in drug stores, and you can go there for some of your healthcare,” she said. “I think that takes the place of the public health nurse walking the streets covering a certain area that they have.”

Wyke also addressed racial disparities in healthcare.

More needs to be done to recruit African Americans to become nurses and healthcare workers, she said, as it is helpful for Black patients to see healthcare workers that look like them and hopefully help build trust and lessen inequalities in healthcare.

Although there is better African American representation in the industry since when she started, Wyke said efforts need to continue to encourage Black youth to go into medical fields.

“African Americans coming in, many of them do not have the resources, so we need to have scholarships for them and more support for underrepresented,” she said.

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