The working group On the Frontlines: Nursing Leadership in Pandemics seeks to understand the role of nurses as change agents in the prevention, detection and response to pandemic infectious disease outbreaks. Although nurses are crucial to combatting pandemics, their work is often not considered when international leaders gather to discuss global health issues. This is a consequence of both the MD-centered hierarchy of medical practice and the fact that nursing remains a profession in which women – whose work is systemically undervalued -- predominate (in the US, over 90% of registered nurses are women). This is a dangerous omission, since although nurses are on the front lines of care, little is known about the range of activities they undertake beyond what may be obvious in patient care. Even key clinical innovations are often overlooked when they should be universally implemented. And there is little record of the painful choices nurses and other health professionals often make between taking care of patients and protecting themselves and their families.
This working group is necessarily inter-sectoral and inter-disciplinary. On the Frontlines draws on the work of the health science community – nursing, medicine, public health, evolutionary biology and immunology, as well as demography – to understand the changing nature of infectious diseases and how to manage and contain them. We engage the scholarship – international health regulations, international law and the doctrine of the duty to protect – that deals with the ethical character of leadership in the global health and biodefense communities and the barriers nursing leaders face in pursuing the public good. Further, to document the role of nurses, we draw on historical methods, anthropology and journalism to capture nurses’ experience in the field.
The end-goals of this project are twofold: to document and publish the first-hand experiences of nurse and midwife leaders fighting pandemic disease, and to capture best practices in pandemic nursing in a series of policy recommendations.