Kevin Mahoney

from CEO Kevin B. Mahoney

When my younger brother passed away in February, who sat beside me, explaining and comforting me in the darkness? A Penn Medicine nurse. When the pandemic first hit us in March, and every day since, nurses have been on the front lines doing battle against an invisible enemy. When you are looking for compassion, creativity, and agility in health care, you are looking at nurses. Since the profession’s inception in the mid-19th century, nurses have been an integral part of the patient care team in the hospital, clinics, schools and at home. A profession that started out as Florence Nightingale’s dream that well-educated women, using a science-based approach, could improve the care of sick patients, has grown to encompass millions of women and men shaping the future of medicine. The meaningful connections they forge with their patients, with each other, and with their peers from other health professions are at the foundation of what makes the profession such a powerhouse.

Nursing has a proud, long history, and it’s clear — both to their colleagues and to patients — that nurses are at the center of the work we do in our hospitals and clinics. When I speak with patients, I’m reminded that nurses exemplify the best traits of those working in medicine. They bring knowledge and experience directly to the bedside. They lead and direct teams to ensure that patient well-being remains front and center. They conduct research to drive continued improvements in health care and push boundaries in how we can heal our patients. And they offer real human connection in some of the most meaningful moments of our lives, helping new moms bring their babies into the world, supporting patients and families as they near the end of life, and all the times that bring people to us in between.

The roles of nurses have grown and evolved tremendously since the profession’s inception, yet they remain essential to patients — as the stories in this issue about contemporary nurses who’ve applied their clinical expertise and experience into roles beyond direct bedside care, all go to show.

To recognize this incredibly important role, as well as that of midwives, the World Health Organization has observed 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. This designation was intended to recognize the extraordinary contributions that nurses and midwives make toward providing health services. 

The selection of this year proved prescient: Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising tide of civic protest against racial injustices, the devastating explosion in Beirut, and destructive hurricanes and fires across the globe, our patients and communities needed heroes. And with our nurses and midwives, heroes are what they got.

These heroes shared their ingenuity to approach the challenges that came before us, their compassion for humankind to unite us regardless of race, religion or creed, and their creativity and leadership to keep us on the path to excellence.

It’s something we see our nurses demonstrate in infinite ways, large and small, every single day. Thousands of nurses with a deep commitment to clinical quality excellence and extraordinary collaborative efforts have earned and re-earned Magnet ® status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center — the highest institutional honor awarded for nursing excellence —at all six of Penn Medicine’s hospital entities. The heroism is clear in nurses like the team at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Penn Medicine Hospice, who worked together to enable a couple who had been married for over 60 years to spend their final days together, first sharing a room when both were PPMC inpatients, then with regular daily visits after the husband was discharged to hospice care. It’s the nurses who’ve organized food pantries at our hospitals to help members of our staff who’ve experienced family hardships during the tough economic times brought on by the COVID pandemic. Nurses stand up for the little things that make a big difference, like a nurse at Lancaster General Health who used a Penn Medicine CAREs grant to buy books for all the babies born at Women & Babies Hospital.

We all come to Penn Medicine to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to help people live longer, healthier lives, and to make a difference. I’m inspired by the selflessness, courage, and creativity our nurses and midwives demonstrate while making a difference for our patients and their families — from deep in our history, through to every day in all the places we provide care today, and in the future yet to be charted. 

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