Virtual Conference Designed to Support Nurses and Build Global Community During Pandemic Crisis

UMass Amherst nurse scientists among lead organizers of mutual aid group
Rachel Walker
Rachel Walker

AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst nurse scientist Rachel Walker has co-organized a national collective of nurses, midwives and scholars called Nursing Mutual Aid 2020 to address urgent needs of nurses and the communities they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, created to support the community-organizing concept of mutual aid and to foster global connections, will host the peer-reviewed Nursing Mutual Aid Twitter Conference on Thursday, April 30. It’s an innovative initiative designed to feature art, knowledge and perspectives that are relevant to nursing the community in the context of the novel coronavirus, Walker says.

“Mutual aid is not a new concept – its roots reach far back into activism, especially within disability advocacy circles and communities of color,” Walker says. “We hope this platform will help us to create a community of clinicians, scholars and organizers who will radically transform nursing and nursing education to meet the needs of everyone, and particularly individual and communities on the margins.”

The virtual conference, which runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time, also will include presentations from events and other conferences that have been canceled due to COVID-19. People can join the conference by following the Twitter handle @NrsgMutualAid and hashtag #NMA2020.

“The conference is free, open-access and designed to be as accessible and inclusive as possible,” says Walker, associate professor of nursing, whose research focuses on nursing innovation as a catalyst for social justice. “All presentations are public, archived and can be accessed at any time, from anywhere in the world, once they go up on Twitter.”

The 75 nurse and midwife presenters in different time zones and several countries include Theresa Brown, a frequent New York Times contributor; Julius Johnson, president of the Black Nurses Association of Greater New York City; and Tener Veneema, an internationally recognized expert in disaster nursing response and public health emergency preparedness.

Conference organizers and speakers also include student nurses, such as UMass Amherst Ph.D. candidate Ann Marie Moraitis. “We recognize they have been especially impacted by the disruptions caused by COVID-19,” Walker says of nursing students.

Organizers have focused on including people and positions frequently marginalized, including leaders who are disabled and neurodiverse, LGBTQ+, people of color, indigenous and black nurses and midwives. Topics to be discussed include street nursing and harm reduction, migrant health, trans health and gender-affirming care, hospice and death nursing, reproductive justice, climate nursing and graphic medicine.

In 10-minute segments, each presenter will upload six substantive tweets, which may be text, text with an image or a video. People following the conference on Twitter will be able to engage with comments and questions.