Next week, The Nurses’ March will take place to unite and recognize caregivers across the country at our nation’s capital. This inaugural event will honor those who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and pay tribute to the nursing community.
Throughout COVID-19, the media and various campaigns brought greater focus to nurses’ critical role in the healthcare industry. But to many, their contributions and leadership were certainly not new concepts, nor was the profession’s need for greater recognition.
Nursing’s 200-year anniversary was held in 2020, but because of COVID complications, nurses and healthcare workers were unable to pay proper tribute to the milestone. The following year, the pandemic’s obstacles remained, and an organized acknowledgment was postponed again. This year, nurses aim to change that.
On May 12, The Nurses’ March will unite supporters, organizations, families, and caregivers to memorialize friends and colleagues lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Held on International Nurses Day (the final day of National Nurses Week in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday), the event will also commemorate the nursing profession and advocate for change.
The Nurses’ March event is calling for a National Caregiver Memorial Day on May 12, to honor those healthcare workers who lost their lives during the pandemic. (To learn more and sign the petition, follow this link.) The march will take place at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by The Pink Berets, a veteran organization that provides mental health services, The Nurses’ March recognizes the emotional and mental impact the pandemic has had on the nursing community — especially those who have provided care on the front lines over the past two years.
Nurse.com, Relias, and HOLLIBLU, a community building app for nurses, are providing support for the march. Cara Lunsford, RN, Founder and CEO of HOLLIBLU and Vice President of Community at Relias, has long understood the physical and mental implications of providing nursing care. “Nurses by nature are resilient and committed individuals — but that doesn’t mean we’re complacent with the status quo,” Lunsford explained.
“The Nurses’ March comes at a time with great momentum and opportunity to spark real, lasting change that would impact patients, nurses, and other healthcare professionals,” she said.
Because nurses worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that the needs of patients and colleagues were being met, many (if not most) were unable to adequately grieve and heal from the immense challenges and loss of life associated with COVID.
“A lot of nurses who worked on COVID units lost more patients than an average nurse will lose throughout their career, all within two years or less,” Lunsford said. “And chances are, they weren’t prepared for that, and how could you really prepare for that?”
“Nurses lost patients, had that difficult conversation with the patient’s family, and left their shift with that heaviness — that loss. You go home, try to process, be with your family, only to come back and do it again the next day,” she said.
Lunsford feels The Nurses’ March will be a powerful, much-needed space to grieve and heal. As nurses have been appreciated and even praised for their steadfastness, less attention has been given to promoting self-care and emotional wellness. This is something many nurses, like Lunsford, think should be addressed.
“Nurses are in demand — and rightfully so,” said Lunsford. “But unless we’re taking the time to make sure they’re being taken care of, we’re not changing healthcare for the better.”
Many nurses hope that’s in part what The Nurses’ March will help achieve — a nationally recognized effort of support to lift the nursing community, and large-scale appreciation of their efforts.