Melissa B. Jones, MSN, APRN, CPNP-AC
Vice President, PCICS
CICU Nurse Practitioner
Director, Neurocardiac Critical Care Program
Children’s National Hospital
This year has certainly given us reason to pause and reflect; and to shift plans, expectations, and priorities. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated families and communities around the world, and it has forced us to develop new ways to work and live. The disproportionate impact of the virus on minority and low-income communities has also illuminated known disparities in our healthcare system. And, in the midst of the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota ignited protests worldwide and has spurred conversations about racial justice that were long overdue.
As we are trained to do in our work, my first response to Floyd’s death, the deaths of other Black Americans, and the resulting protests, was to seek information to deepen my understanding of the problem. I was humbled. I thought I had appreciated the privilege that I have been afforded because of the color of my skin, but I’ve learned that I hadn’t fully recognized the magnitude of that privilege. I intend to continue my own journey to better my understanding of these issues and to take steps to counter the impact of generations of racial injustice. While this work may at times feel uncomfortable, messy, and even risky, I’m confident that it is essential and will be well worth the effort.
As a Society, we have work to do to build a professional home for all people who take care of children with heart disease and for those who would do so if provided the opportunity and invitation. It is tragic to think that we’ve only benefited from a fraction of the talent that could serve children with heart disease, but the possibility of change is a reason for hope. This work requires proactive strategies to attract and elevate under-represented groups, including Black Americans. And, in addition to addressing diversity within the Society membership and the field generally, pursuing racial justice means better understanding the racial disparities in patients with congenital heart disease, so that we can move toward eliminating them. The energy and passion of the Board of Directors in taking some initial steps on these issues gives me a lot of hope for the future of our Society, and I look forward to contributing to that work going forward.