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The Path Forward: Envisioning Nursing Beyond a Pandemic

2022 National Nurses Month
Lynda Benton, Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives at Johnson & Johnson, reflects on the way forward for the nursing profession as we celebrate this year’s National Nurses Month.

May is here, and with it, National Nurses Month – the third since the pandemic began. Lately, I have found myself reflecting on all the ways, big and small, that nursing has changed because of COVID-19.

Resilience became a big buzzword during the pandemic, frequently connected with a resilient frontline health workforce, and more specifically, nurses. But what is resilience?

There are actually two ways to think about resilience. One is the way we’ve thought about it over the last two years – the ability to overcome challenges and stay the course when things are hard - toughness. But the other definition is more about elasticity. As objects or people weather great difficulty, resilience can be measured by their ability to spring back into their original shape.

Nurses have always been the first kind of resilient. But in the last two years, I think the healthcare system has also called upon them to be the second. And with all that nurses have experienced in the last two years, springing back into original mindsets seems unfathomable.

Nurses’ resilience has kept our nation’s healthcare system afloat. But the resilience of individuals cannot be a failsafe forever. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves to an endemic way of life, we can no longer ask our nursing workforce to push through indefinitely – until the next shift ends, until the next wave crests.

So, what is the path forward?

This is exactly what our team at Johnson & Johnson has been thinking about. A lot. For months. Our company has stood behind nurses for more than 125 years, advocating for the profession, elevating their impact in healthcare, and supporting them with scholarships, programming, mentorship and more, because we know nurses are the lifeblood of healthcare.

But in this new world, we wanted a clearer picture of where our support was needed most. So, we took time out to talk with and listen to nurses, to better understand how our company could continue to accelerate our support where it was needed most. We will continue to be a strong advocate for the profession, and work to support greater diversity and clinical readiness. But another area of support was raised, one that we heard about again and again. This was a desire for a better work environment – a place where new staffing models and care delivery models could live, where exciting career paths for nurses could be defined and supported. An environment intentionally designed to attract and support nurses, where they could thrive, instead of just survive, as some described it.

For us, this begins with working with nurses and health system leaders to identify foundational pain points and applying innovation to build truly meaningful solutions, leveraging measurable test and learn approaches, prioritizing and supporting the mental well-being of health workers and continuing to strengthen leadership and broaden overall skill sets, so that nurses are prepared, capable and energized to lead healthcare’s transformation.

In recognition of Nurses Month, we are envisioning the future of nursing beyond the pandemic. We will recognize inspiring, innovative nurse leaders and announce exciting new initiatives supporting nurse leadership within health systems. Some of this work is focused on supporting nurse innovators directly, like the announcement of a new NurseHack4Health Pitch-a-thon in collaboration with All In WellBeing First for Healthcare and #FirstRespondersFirst, which will provide up to $250,000 in funding for nurse-led workplace wellness ideas, and the launching of a new cohort of J&J Nurse Innovation Fellows.

Some of it is focused on ensuring nurses are visibly recognized as the transformative, skilled, lifeblood of healthcare that you are. Throughout the month of May, we are supporting advertising on TV, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as newspaper ads in USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, spotlighting the importance of and impact of the nursing profession in healthcare. We are also excited about our 2022 partnership with NBC’s TODAY show, where during National Nurses Week, we are sponsoring a special episode dedicated to nurses and the future of the profession. In all these efforts and more, we’re proud to stand with nurses in every way we can.

This National Nurses Month, and on May 12, the International Day of the Nurse, I am inspired by how much the nursing workforce has accomplished in the face of a global pandemic, and also incredibly excited to think about what the nursing profession can continue to achieve in the years to come, with renewed support and energy behind them.

I speak for the entire Johnson & Johnson organization when I extend my gratitude to you. But more than that, I am also pledging our support in building a healthy, thriving nurse workforce.

To every nurse reading this – we are listening, we stand with you, and wherever we go from here, we go together.

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