By Kathy Hubbard
Forty years ago, when a bullet was dislodged just inches from President Ronald Reagan’s heart, he credited his nurses for his complete recovery. He graciously sent each of them words of encouragement in written thank you notes. The following year he signed an executive order making May 6 National Recognition Day for Nurses.
Years earlier, the International Nurse Council had named International Nurses Day on May 12 to honor Florence Nightingale’s birthday. So, what to do? Two celebrations just a week apart? Easy decision. Combine them into one. Nurses Week (which starts tomorrow if you’re not looking at a calendar) allows us to show our appreciation for all nurses’ hard work, unselfish commitment, skills, and understanding.
COVID-19 has taught us a lot about nursing care. From monitoring all the ventilation equipment used to save lives, providing a kind hand to hold at end of life, or administering vaccines to prevent the disease, nurses have put themselves at risk not only for the infection but also for the effects of extreme stress.
“The environment in which nurses practice has been well studied,” the American Association of Critical Nursing says on their website. “Research has found that the work environment impacts nurses’ psychosocial well-being and interpersonal relationships, and the quality of patient care.”
As a general rule, nurses have high rates of exposure to infectious diseases, and COVID is no exception. Few states keep records about how many healthcare professionals contracted COVID, but the National Institutes of Health estimates over 114,000 cases with close to 600 deaths so far. Bear in mind that’s all healthcare providers, not just nurses.
Why then, with the back-breaking work and unsociable hours, would anyone want to be a nurse? Thankfully, there are as many reasons as capable nurses, and we salute all of them.
“I became a nurse so that I could have an impact on the lives of others and have a career that felt very meaningful. After 25 years of helping patients and their families navigate cancer and mentoring new nurses, I believe that at the end of the day, no matter how challenging, I have impacted someone’s life for the better,” Nancy Brook, RN, MSN, CFNP said on Carson-Newman’s website.
On the same website, registered nurse Catherine Burger said, “What I find to be the most rewarding about being a nurse is the numerous career paths that are available within the profession. For example, in my nearly 30-year career, I have been blessed to work in labor and delivery, the Intensive Care Unit, home health, informatics, leadership, clinical practice, and ambulatory care.”
This nursing school’s website has testimonials from fifteen nurses with diverse degrees and skills. Each of them says that the most rewarding part of the job is making a difference in people’s lives and making a personal connection with their patients.
On Nurse.com’s website, I found a fascinating life story of a woman who described her life before deciding to go to nursing school as being dysfunctional and chaotic.
“I often felt hopeless, confused, and disappointed that my life was less than stellar,” this college dropout said. She then saw a newspaper ad for a certified nursing assistant program and thought she’d take a chance at learning something she could make into a career.
She completed the course and worked on a healthcare team at a convalescent center for four years while pursuing an advanced degree. She credits starting as a CNA not as beginning at the bottom, but as the first step to her future which she just topped off with a doctorate.
A Carson-Newman nurse practitioner student, Maria Kindrai, RN, hit a note when she said, “Caring for others has always been a priority, but during a pandemic is has been heightened. This one-on-one time with someone is a time when both the patient and the nurse have the opportunity for growth and learning from one another.”
To all nurses, I say, “Thank you ever so much for all you do. You’re appreciated more than you will ever know.”
Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.