We have all witnessed the rapid, worldwide contagion of the novel coronavirus, causing the World Health Organization (WHO) to call it a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Amidst the almost unreal impact on the lives of most people around the world, health professionals have received our utmost attention and respect. We have seen their faces marked with the indentation of the facemasks and goggles they wore for hours on end. Those marks express their tireless efforts to save lives and to bring healing and light at a time of crisis and uncertainty.

Nurses are among the many health professionals at the forefront of the COVID-19 response. Nurses provide high quality, respectful treatment and care, addressing fears and questions through community and one-on-one dialogue, collecting data for clinical studies, advocating for policy change, and educating people on how to protect their families and communities. Quite simply, without nurses, there would be no response. Why are we highlighting nurses? Simple: 2020 is the year of the nurse and the midwife.

Beyond this pandemic, nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services to people around the world. They devote their lives to caring for mothers and children, giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice, and meeting everyday essential health needs. They are often the first and only point of care in their communities. According to the WHO, the world needs 5.9 million more nurses and midwives. That’s why the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

As Adventists, we join this year-long effort to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlighting the challenging conditions they often face and the opportunities they have to provide hope and whole person care, including spiritual care, to all they serve. For over a century, Adventist nurses have been instrumental leaders in providing wholistic healing. In 1883, the first school of nursing was established in Battle Creek Sanitarium, Michigan, USA, with that goal. As the health ministry of the church reached around the globe, mission-minded nurses had a vital role. They assisted in the development of clinics, hospitals, and schools of nursing as early as 1898 in Australia, in South Africa (1900), Argentina (1908), China (1921), and India (1925). Today, nursing schools continue to expand rapidly, totaling more than seventy-five around the world. Thousands of nurses serve in hospitals on every continent.

On April 7, 2021 (World Health Day), let us join the WHO in celebrating the work of nurses and highlighting the need for more of them. The global shortage ensures a demand for Adventist nurses who will extend Jesus’ ministry by sharing health, healing, hope, and wholeness, serving all who are in need. We praise God for nurses who bring light to a dark world pointing to Christ, the Healer and light Source.

This article has been reprinted, by permission, from The Health Connection Newsletter, Quarter 1, 2020.

Katia Reinert, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, is an associate director for the Health Ministries at the General Conference of Seventhday Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.