The following article features coverage from the 2020 ONA Virtual Navigation Summit. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage. In addition, the original presentation is available for on-demand viewing and CNE credit until September 2021, click here to access.

How very little can be done under the spirit of fear. — Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale exemplifies the role of the nurse during a crisis. Amidst the perils of war, she ministered to the sick and dying and begat lessons learned to future generations of nurses. Today, people are facing fires, floods, riots, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare workers have been heralded as heroes. Similar to Florence, nurses have risen to the call.

Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about the Hero’s Journey. He acknowledges that heroes begin the journey from the ordinary world, the status quo. Next, a call to adventure, involves some kind of change leading to a challenge. The abyss involves dealing with uncertainty. Transformation allows the hero to look at the situation with new eyes and learn how to manage the challenge. Reward involves claiming renewed hope and courage — a new now. The final stage of the Hero’s Journey — returning with a gift — involves sharing lessons learned. We have collectively and individually been on this journey.

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I have a passionate nature which requires satisfaction. —Florence Nightingale

Nursing is more than a role, it’s a calling. Historically, women have cared for others, often at the cost of their own health and satisfaction. In today’s world, men, women, and gender fluid persons seek for meaning in the work they do. Connecting with others who understand and have life knowledge can lead to a deep sense of meaning and purpose.

Crises can produce both triumph and terror. Such crises can propel us to make choices that can forever change our lives as we focus on solutions not problems; choose to be authentic, select courage over fear, nurture healthy relationships, seek feedback, know our purpose, and take action to direct our vision. The sense of pride at being in a position to nurture the frightened while managing our own fears is the call of the nurse, and one we have magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises facing our world today. 

I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty … — Florence Nightingale

The call to nursing may result from observing an exemplary person. Two nurses, one working in an emergency department and the other on a COVID unit, will often call their mother, also a nurse, to debrief after working long shifts. Their mother was that example in their lives of hard work and dedication to their nursing dream. She pursued her nursing call when the girls were young; despite her husband pressuring that the girls would come to resent her putting in the time to complete her degree. But this was not the case. Without their mothers urging, both girls heard their own call to serve the sick, minister to the dying, and, like their mother, know their purpose and direct their vision by rising to the call during crisis. Leaving is never an option.  They know how much their patients and colleagues depend upon them.  They put their own fear of getting infected aside in order to be effective in their role. This is their calling. This is their life.