National Nurses Week celebrates those on the front lines of the pandemic

This past year has been difficult for everyone, but no one more than the frontline nurses who have battled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each spring, May 6-12 is designated National Nurses Week to coincide with the birthday of Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820 – August 13, 1910), a British nurse considered the founder of modern nursing. (AdobeStock)

“Although many of us see a light at the end of the tunnel, our nurses are still working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to help us get through this pandemic,” said Dayna Ballantyne, director of the development of the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Each year, National Nurses Week is celebrated from May 6 to 12 to coincide with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse considered the founder of modern nursing. She was born on May 12, 1820, served in the Crimean War, and spent her life training nurses before dying in 1910 at the age of 90.

Last year, hospitals received a surge of community support during National Nurses Week, ranging from donated meals to garden sign fundraisers and mask donations.

UnityPoint Health, for example, has received 102,000 homemade sheet masks and more than 48,000 meals and snacks since March 2020.

A year later, as some needs – such as homemade masks – have changed, the need to support nurses continues, with COVID-19 still circulating statewide.

“Even though we’re after a year, it still happens, it continues,” said Mary Klinger, president of the St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation at Cedar Rapids. “We must continue to support healthcare workers, ensuring they stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It has been a trying year.

While it’s hard to get nurses to ask for anything for themselves – several hospitals’ wish lists are filled with items for patients – there are a number of ways you can show your support to caregivers.

Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids

At the start of the pandemic, Mercy received nearly 22,000 homemade masks donated by the community that have helped protect patients, visitors and staff in the event of a shortage of personal protective equipment. The hospital now offers disposable masks in its screening stations and no longer needs homemade masks.

Mercy, however, continues to raise money for her Employee Relief Fund with the sale of Hearts for Healthcare t-shirts through One Mission, which donates 40% of the profits to the fund. The Mercy Foundation created the fund to help hospital workers facing financial hardship during the pandemic. Over the past year, over $ 83,000 has been contributed to the fund.

“Monetary donations made to the Mercy Employee Relief Fund help provide assistance where it is most needed, whether it is for housing or rent, day care, transportation needs, food aid. or other needs, ”said Karen Vander Sanden, spokesperson for Mercy Medical Center.

She noted that the August 10 derecho only worsened the difficulties faced by some healthcare workers.

Direct donations to the Employee Relief Fund can be made at The public can also donate to The Mercy Foundation in honor of nurses or other caregivers by sending donations to Mercy Foundation, attention: Employee Relief Fund, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.

Messages of encouragement and thanks can be left on Mercy’s Facebook page, Cards or letters can be sent to Mercy Medical Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke Hospital, Cedar Rapids

In addition to the thousands of masks and meals donated, UnityPoint also received 709,000 items of personal protective equipment and donated $ 250,000 to its COVID Compassion Fund, run by the St. Luc’s Foundation to help members of the team to deal with needs.

Money from the Compassionate Fund has helped healthcare workers obtain equipment, personal care and education. It also funded a staff treat cart that has been circulating throughout the hospital over the past year.

Klinger, president of the St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation, said equipment needs included the purchase of pulse oximeters to give to patients who test positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalization. The monitors allowed patients to return home without having to go to a pharmacy. It helped the caregivers, she said, because they knew they were helping the patients.

“Last year has been amazing,” Klinger said. “We received so much support from the whole community, from individuals, from volunteers, to really help support our team members, our heroes here at the hospital.

Of the $ 250,000 donated to the Compassionate Fund, $ 67,000 came from the sale of t-shirts through One Mission. These sales continue, with a new design of “Choose Hope”, at

Donations of meals or other goodies can be coordinated by calling the St. Luke’s Foundation at (319) 369-7716 or by emailing [email protected]

Messages of support can be posted online at or mailed to the Foundation at the Medical Office Plaza, 855 A Ave. NE, 1st Floor, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402 or at St. Luke’s Hospital, 1026 A Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

For more information on how to help Saint Luke, visit

Mercy Iowa City

Mercy Iowa City welcomes donations of personal protective equipment, including disposable gowns or coveralls, gloves, face shields, and safety glasses, with DIY instructions on making disposable gowns through the Department of Iowa Public Health.

Equipment or food donations can be scheduled by calling Mercy Material Management at (319) 339-3647 Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Evening or weekend donations can be scheduled by calling Mercy Security at (319) 339-3694.

Monetary donations can be made at One beneficiary option is the Nursing Scholarship Fund.

Veterans Health Care System, Iowa City

While the VA focuses its giving on the needs of veterans, these donations help nurses and other caregivers by helping them care for their patients.

A list of needs can be found at and includes items such as new clothes, hygiene products, transportation, and prepaid cell phones.

Online donations can be made to the hospital through Checks made payable to Iowa City VA can be sent to Volunteer Service (135), 601 Highway 6 West, Iowa City, IA 52246; you can indicate what you want your donation to be used for in the memo line of the check.

Bryan Clark, outreach and marketing coordinator with the Iowa City VA health care system, said the public can tag AV social media accounts with posts intended for nurses and that they will be shared with staff during Nurses’ Week. The Facebook site is

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City

While a part of nursing has always been the ability to think on your feet, at no time has it been more necessary than last year, said Ballantyne of the UI College of Nursing.

Nurses were learning about COVID-19 and how to treat patients, the protocols to use to stay safe, and how to use technology to keep patients and families connected when visitor restrictions were in place.

From an education standpoint, the past year has been about how it is safe for UI nursing students to gain clinical experience. This involved purchasing additional personal protective equipment and sometimes laptops and Wi-Fi service so that students could take courses online. A support line, backed by private donors, has helped students seek mental health counseling.

“Unfortunately, when you’re in the middle of it, often times you’re kind of last on your list,” Ballantyne said. “So (the nurses) might have been in the thick of it six months ago, but now they just have a chance to lift their heads and say, ‘I have to take care of myself, I ‘need to take care of my family’. “

The need has grown, she said, for supportive services for frontline workers, such as wellness and mental health services.

The preferred way for the public to support nurses during National Nurses Week and beyond is to donate to the following funds:

• The UIHC Nursing Excellence Fund ( provides emergency support to nurses when they need it with things like childcare or personal protective equipment. . The fonds is specific to the Department of Nursing at the IUHC.

• The UI College of Nursing Student Aid Fund ( offers scholarships to UI nursing students.

• UI Center for Advancement ( is hospital-wide (select either the UI Hospital and Clinic Care Fund or the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Fund).

Gift cards are also accepted and will be used to recognize staff. Gift cards must be between $ 5 and $ 25 and for products such as food, groceries, gasoline or merchandise (no service). Cards can be sent with an in-kind donation form to UI Health Care, 200 Hawkins Dr., 1104 RCP, Attn: Concierge Services, Iowa City, IA 52242. If you want to specify that the gift is for nurses, indicate that under the “Description of the donation” on the in-kind donation form.

The public can also send thank you messages to nurses at

UI hospitals and clinics also offer a celebration cart, breakfast vouchers, and staff gift distributions throughout Nurses Week.

“Going forward, we’re really keeping an eye on wellness and stress reduction,” Ballantyne said. “We don’t know what the consequences of being a pandemic health care provider will be for over a year now.

“But we know that long periods of time in a very stressful environment impacts your mental health as well as your personal life,” she said. “So we want to be as prepared as possible to support those who have supported us.”

About Marion Alexander

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