Editor’s Note: Moving forward into 2021

Forward we trudge into 2021, with gratitude, humanity and hope in our hearts.
group of nurses
Many medical teams were tasked with creating negative air pressure rooms for positive COVID-19 patients. Jessica Trumpy, charge nurse and nursing professional governance unit based council chair at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - Madison, led the merger of two large medical and surgical departments to allow for one nursing unit to be vacated. The photo is one Trumpy texted the department director to show the new team and how the two came together.

Only a few days after we put out the call for Top Nurses nominations — which we knew would attract stories of nurses responding to COVID-19 in brilliant and innovative ways — we got an email from a local nurse who offered us a very good piece of advice.

The sender pointed out problematic language that has become a dangerous cultural expectation: that nurses are only “exceptional” if they are “selfless,” and risking personal safety is a normal, expected part of the job.

“In our work, we sometimes remark to one another that what qualifies as a felony outside of hospital and clinic walls is not deemed one when it impacts a nurse inside clinic and hospital walls,” the sender wrote to us. “Many of my co-workers stand with me when I say: there is no valor in risking our own safety.”

Needless to say, we immediately updated our nomination call out to make sure we did not allude to that expectation. Yes, nurses sometimes risk their lives in their practice, especially this past year amid a pandemic. But being a Top Nurse does not and should not require self sacrifice.

Usually we choose just six nurses or teams for these biennial awards. There was no way we could do that this time around. Reviewing nomination essays was emotional, inspirational and in some cases hard to read. Traditionally peer-nominated, the program this year was open to the public to nominate local nurses, so we had stories come in from patients and relatives, too. We tried our best to translate the gratitude of our 70-plus nominators.

One would have hoped that by January 2021 we would be talking about COVID-19 in the past tense, but we’re not there yet. We hope you’ll read through the Top Nurses feature and be reminded that those nurses and all other health care workers are still going into work every day dealing with the most critical and tragic part of the pandemic.

Despite the challenges we’re facing, the new year still feels like a fresh start and acts as a reminder that we must keep moving forward. (It is our state motto, after all.) Beyond our cover story, nearly every piece of content in this issue is about finding new ways forward. Superintendent Carlton Jenkins is helping start the next chapter for the Madison Metropolitan School District, local folks are going alcohol-free, a mom/business owner designed her at-home office to create a dual space for virtual learning, tattoo artists are modifying operations for increased safety, engaged couples are adjusting plans and chefs are staying creative with food concepts sans traditional storefronts.

Forward we trudge into 2021, with gratitude, humanity and hope in our hearts.