Celebrating National Nurses Day: Compassion. Expertise. Trust.

Five different type of nurse. Four are wearing face mask and one is not.

Tomorrow, we celebrate National Nurses Day! I salute my nurse colleagues who work tirelessly to provide compassionate, expert health care to patients with a wide array of health challenges, and I affirm that NLM stands with you.

I hope you can take a moment to absorb the outpouring of gratitude from around the world for the work you’ve been doing on the frontlines (and behind the scenes) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you’ll extend those good thoughts to the other health professionals and support staff partners in your endeavors. I join my words and my heart to those expressions of thanks and pledge the resources of the National Library of Medicine in support.

While the Library can’t manufacture more time, fabricate personal protective equipment, or stand beside the bed of a patient in need, we can help nurses find freely accessible literature, such as this informative article on palliative care for COVID-19 patients in nursing homes, through PubMed and our full-text literature database, PubMed Central

And we know nurses are busy, so we’re accelerating access to the literature by creating special search strategies like LitCovid, a curated literature hub for tracking up-to-date scientific information about the 2019 novel coronavirus. LitCovid provides centralized access to over 9,000 relevant articles in PubMed. Articles are categorized by research topic and geographic location for improved access and are updated daily to ensure relevancy. Read more about it in the recent piece by Chen et al. in Nature and download the data here.

We also know that clinicians don’t have time to search widely for the information they need. So NLM is working with publishers and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a collection of more than 59,000 (and growing) journal articles, abstracts, and preprints on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, NLM is launching a community-wide challenge to devise new strategies to make it easier for clinicians and, ultimately, everyone to efficiently access the literature to get up-to-the-minute answers.

NLM’s intramural researchers are engaged in building machine learning algorithms to assist in the rapid diagnosis of some of the clinical manifestations of COVID-19. An ensemble of machine learning algorithms has been trained to recognize bacterial and viral pneumonia opacifications (vague, fuzzy clouds of white in the darkness of a chest X-ray) from normal images and then further refine their own capability to differentiate COVID-19 from other viral pneumonias. This work, which has been ratified by three radiologists, can be quickly adapted for use in hospital and urgent care settings. And additional efforts are underway to provide predictive tracking and automated decision support for COVID-19 patients.

Through NLM’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine, we’re making sure that public libraries have access to the latest information about COVID-19. This supports nurses by providing community-level resources that raise awareness and inform the public about diagnosis and treatment. In a related effort, our New England Regional Medical Library recently offered a one-hour online class on strategies and resources to maintain sobriety during COVID-19 for individuals with substance use disorder and the people who support them, including nurses, who could earn continuing education credits.

Finally, NLM is working to make sure that the formal languages and terminologies used by nurses and others in the health care setting, such as LOINC, SNOMED CT, and RxNorm, include sufficient terms to correctly describe the COVID-19 patient experience and intervention. Through our Value Set Authority Center, a repository and authoring tool for public value sets (lists of codes and corresponding terms) that define clinical concepts to support effective and interoperable health information exchange, we’ve provided new COVID-19 value sets for use in quality monitoring and billing.

Compassion. Expertise. Trust.

I wonder if the creators of this tagline for National Nurses Day anticipated a world in such desperate need of compassion, expertise, and trust? How could they have envisioned the role that nurses would play in the patient journey through COVID-19? That a nurse would set up a video chat, so a new dad could be “present” at the birth of his child or a patient could say a final farewell? How could they have known that our nurse colleagues would need the support of all of us to face the daily professional challenges and personal risks of a global pandemic?

I am proud of the efforts of the NLM team to support nurses everywhere. We know we can’t stand in your place, but we hope that our work makes your job a little easier.


Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

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