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Even Nurse "Heroes" Are Humans Who Need Support

05/04/2021

By Lisa DiBlasi Moorehead, EdD, MSN, RN, CENP, Associate Nurse Executive and Mark G. Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer/ chief nursing executive

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been lauded as heroes.  While nurses have performed heroic work, without question, we are still human. Nurses are not heroes in the sense that we do not need support – support from communities, workplaces, and even from ourselves! 

We live in a society that glamorizes self-sacrifice and overwork, especially in the healing professions. There is a lesson in the flight attendant safety instructions telling passengers to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  Nurses must be able to take the time for self-care to continue caring for others. 

The American Nurses Association, along with several other professional nursing organizations have developed The Well-Being Initiative. This collaborative effort provides resources to nurses including:

  • guided writing program
  • podcast discussing strategies for coping with stress
  • COVID-19 webinars
  • stress self-assessments
  • apps that track mood and sleep patterns 

Additional resources can also be found at www.jointcommission.org/COVID .

Need for Improved Workplace Support
Workplaces must be supportive environments. While nurses are ranked (for the 19th consecutive year) as the most trusted profession, we have also been ranked among those with the lowest in influence.  This has certainly changed during the pandemic when nurses have emerged as leaders in advocating for patients and families during these unprecedented times.  Work environments need to continue to leverage nursing expertise in providing patient care.

In Sentinel Event Alert 62: Health Care workers in Crisis, published in February 2021, The Joint Commission lists five key ways leaders can support healthcare workers:  

  1. Foster open and transparent communication
  2. Remove barriers to health care workers in seeking mental health services
  3. Protect worker safety by using resources such as the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety Hierarchy of Controls framework
  4. Develop a flexible workforce; evaluate the work being performed and determine if it can be performed remotely.
  5. Provide nurses and others with opportunity to collaborate, lead, and innovate.

Need to Address Violence and Bullying
In order for workplaces to be supportive, they must be safe. In recent polls, up to half of nurse respondents report being bullied at work and a quarter report being assaulted.  Workplace violence has been a priority safety concern for The Chief Nurse Executive Council at The Joint Commission.  Workplace violence standards have been developed, published for public comment, and are now in the final stages of approval with an anticipated effective date of January 1, 2022.

Communities can also support Nursing, the most trusted profession, during Nurses week.  We all need to do our part in taking steps to prevent overtaxing a healthcare system still recovering from the last wave of COVID-19 patients (with some now experiencing new surges).  These steps include getting vaccinated when eligible and following masking and social distancing CDC recommendations.  

This is how you can honor nurses during Nurses Month. While we know the “heroes” moniker is well-intended – and deserved, the best way to show your  support for nurses this year is by doing your part to encourage herd immunity, maintaining safety requirements and, if you’re in a leadership position, making your workplaces as supportive as possible.

Lisa DiBlasi Moorehead, EdD, MSN, RN, CENP, is the Associate Nurse Executive in the Division of Accreditation and Certification Operations at The Joint Commission. Previously, Dr. DiBlasi Moorehead was a field director at The Joint Commission for the Hospital, Critical Access Hospital and Nursing Care Center accreditation programs. Since 2010, she has been a surveyor for the Hospital accreditation program. Prior to joining The Joint Commission, Dr. DiBlasi Moorehead was responsible for accreditation and regulatory compliance and related performance improvement activities for a five-hospital system in Louisville, Kentucky. She has also held leadership positions in nursing, quality and education during her more than 30 years in health care.


Mark G. Pelletier, RN, MS is the chief operating officer, Accreditation and Certification Operations, and chief nursing executive for The Joint Commission. Prior to his current position, Pelletier served as the executive director for the Hospital Accreditation Program and was also responsible for business development in the Hospital, Critical Access Hospital and Laboratory accreditation programs. Mr. Pelletier has more than 30 years of experience in hospital operations, performance and quality improvement, process redesign, and program development. Previously, he was the senior vice president and chief operating officer of Condell Medical Center, Libertyville, Illinois. He has also served in executive positions for several hospitals in the Chicago area including Resurrection Health Care, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Children’s Memorial Medical Center and Mercy Hospital Medical Center.