Recently, in preparation for a chapter event, I was reviewing Sigma’s history--in particular, our founding principles of love, courage, and honor. It struck me how much foresight the founders had in selecting these three words from the Greek words meaning Sigma Theta Tau. While much of our attention is rightfully focused on the coronavirus crisis and ensuing impact, love, courage, and honor have even more meaning.
Love is the word that may make us the most uncomfortable since in English love is most often associated with family and friends. I am far from a scholar of the ancient Greek language, but I would suggest that the ancient Greek word “philia” captures what love means in nursing—loyalty to friends, family, and community. For nurses, our loyalty during this time is exemplified by the actions we’ve taken: showing up for work in clinical settings, leading teams dealing with the many unexpected events, faculty suddenly taking courses from in-person lectures to online, graduating students entering the workforce, and so forth. As well, our loyalty is seen in our continuous efforts to provide facts and insight regarding this illness and helping friends and family manage the many life changes that have been required. If these are not examples of love, I am not sure what is!
Courage almost goes without explanation. While we may initially think of the courage it takes to work in a clinical setting (and this is certainly courageous!), it also takes courage to address the misconceptions and myths that put everyone at risk. I’ve seen so many wonderful examples of courageous actions by Sigma members, and it is humbling. It makes me proud of who we are.
Finally, honor. Perhaps this is the hardest word of all to see in action because honor derives from the internal moral codes informed by our profession. In some ways, honor may be what drives our love and courage. We firmly believe everyone deserves the best nursing care possible, regardless of their personal circumstances, views, or actions. I think of this in the nurses in the 1980s who stepped forward to drive care for those with HIV/AIDS in the early days. And we see it now too in the global response to the COVID-19 crisis. Nursing has always had a strong commitment to this principle and honoring others is part of who we are.
Our founders started Sigma in 1922, just four short years after the 1918 influenza pandemic. While I cannot point to solid evidence that this influenced their selection of love, courage, and honor, I do know that they captured so well who nurses were then and who we still are today.
We see you. And we thank you for everything you are doing. #WeAreSigmaStrong #WeAreResilient #WeAreSigmaNurses
All my best,
Elizabeth “Liz” Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN