Each year, during the week of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, a very exceptional and extraordinary group of men and women are recognized for their tremendous work and compassion. Their work exemplifies critical thinking skills, assessment and application of care models that provide quality clinical care to patients with complex mental and physical diseases. The art and science of nursing has been one of the oldest professions noted today. Florence Nightingale was not the first nurse ever to exist in the world. She was, however, the first person to actually advocate it as a profession. Nursing has a long centuries-old rich history. It has evolved out of a serious need to provide a blanket of responsibility and safety for directing and coordinating the care of a patient, often in the worst of times.
The world of professional nursing has evolved over the hundreds of years from which it came. The history books are filled with various types of nurses around the world. As you might imagine, this is a very proud and prestigious group of professionals who cherish their heritage. Few things last hundreds of years without seeing tremendous change. Nursing is no exception. As medicine changed, as the patient changed, so did the profession of nursing. Most of the change has been very good for the profession.
There are over 3.1 million registered nurses who maintain a license in the United States today. Approximately 2.4 million of them are actively employed. Within those numbers are 300,000 advanced practice nurses, many of whom have prescriptive authority in 49 states. Nurses are leaders in the healthcare of our patients. They are the glue that binds the numerous multidisciplinary teams together. They reduce the fragmentation between providers and are the professional who is in charge of the prioritization of the patient’s plan of care under the direct orders of a licensed independent practitioner (usually a MD).
This could be, and often is, a daunting task. Nurses have lived and worked through famines, plagues, wars and the depressions. While much change has been necessary, change comes easily to nurses who believe their patients will have better care. This is a profession that is well compensated, but that is not nearly the sole reason a nurse becomes attracted to it. The “ calling” is much more complicated. It comes deep from within to completely care for another individual in need.
Nurses must disregard any biases they may personally have whether that is with race, ethnicity, religion, wealth, poverty and the like. They must care for everyone equally. This simplifies their mission. It is everyone, everyday, every hour, anywhere.
The noble profession that often remains more comfortable helping others receiving that priceless gift as their true reward, does have a week that recognizes each and every one of the nurses in the nation. In 1954, through work with legislators and the American Nurses Association, President Richard Nixon began the task of honoring this most worthy group of professionals, and then in 1974, President Ronald Reagan officially named May 6 as National Nurses Day.
Celebrations occur all over the nation in various formats. At St. David’s HealthCare, we honor each and every nurse, highlighting those who represent our mission and vision to be the finest healthcare provider in the world and to provide exceptional care to every patient every day, with a spirit of warmth, friendliness and personal pride.
As a fifth generation nurse, I feel I speak for many nurses who are both here and present as well as those who have passed before us. We are in a unique group of men and women who have chosen one of the hardest professions mentally and physically that exists. While I have touched on several topics reflecting this fascinating career, something everyone can do during Nurses Weekis to find a nurse and tell them how much you personally appreciate them for what they do. If it were not for them, the quality healthcare we know today would not exist.
On behalf of St. David’s HealthCare, it is an absolute honor and privilege to stand beside you as a colleague and professional nurse. It is our responsibility and obligation to continue what has been our calling for centuries, and that is to never forget our place in history and present day as the advocate for our most important charge—our patient.
Happy Nurses Week 2011! Sally Gillam, RN, BSN, MAHS
Chief Nursing Officer
SDSAMC Click here to view all the Nurses Week 2011 photos.