National Nurses Week: Celebrating Those Who Care for Us
By Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO of HealthyWomen
Nurses are among the most committed and caring health care providers around.
OK, I may be biased. In addition to running HealthyWomen, I am also a nurse. After graduating college with my business degree, I just couldn't give up my longing to be a nurse. It's in my DNA—and if you ask any nurse, I'd bet that 99 percent would agree that the caring and nurturing is something we are born with.
Growing up, I was surrounded by nurses—or maybe I zeroed in on them because of my innate nature to be drawn to health and wellness. My favorite TV show was Julia (who was a nurse); my role model was one of my best friend's mom Ginger Monserrate (who was a nurse) and epitomized for me what a nursing is. I still draw on her energy, genuine care, compassion and true brilliance; my favorite dress-up role to play was—you guessed it—a nurse.
And so, I'm extremely gratified that nurses are recognized by more than just young girls, who, like me, dream about the profession for themselves. National Nurse's Week begins on May 6 and recognizes the profession of nursing and the care and commitment that the 3 million nurses in the United States give to the world.
National Nurse's Week was first celebrated in 1954, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea. The week's celebration, originally observed in October, was later moved to May, to mark Nightingale's birthday (May 12).
Nurses have enjoyed their ranking for the 16th consecutive year as professionals with the highest honesty and ethical standards (this particular Gallup poll ranks a wide spectrum of professions, including grade school teachers and pharmacists).
Nurses play an integral role in educating patients and family members on pre- and post-hospital care as well as in-office care. In and out of the hospital, they're intimately involved in just about all aspects of patient care—from bedside care and medication management to assisting in surgeries and collecting and reporting data. Nurses monitor patients' progress and perform immediate interventions if needed, which can keep patients safe and prevent complications. They're watchful eyes and ears, acting as advocates and caregivers.
Because of their direct involvement with patients (sometimes more than the patient's physician), nurses have an intimate knowledge of the patient's condition, as well as an inside view of what's necessary to promote higher quality and safety of care.
Just this week, CNN came out with a distressing report. Despite the serious nursing shortage in our country, thousands of qualified applicants are being turned away from schools. That's because schools are struggling to expand their class sizes and hire more qualified teachers for the nursing programs. And now, competition to get into nursing school is perhaps more intense than ever, which is unfortunate considering the shortage.
That's a frightening scenario. Nurses are retiring, our population is aging and there won't be enough nurses to fill this gap. CNN reports that, according to the American Nurses Association's estimates, by the year 2022 there will be a need for more than 1 million new registered nurses.
Hopefully schools will figure out ways of funding their programs and staffing their classrooms so they can continue to turn out dedicated nurses who work tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to provide hands-on physical and emotional health care for patients and their families.
One of my proudest moments was being chosen to give the commencement speech at my graduation from nursing school. I feel both blessed and fortunate to be working in a field where I can combine my business knowledge with my passion for health care and nursing.
Let's all remember and honor all the nurses out there who manage, care and promote health and wellness for patients and their families. They're the ones who perform that very demanding but fulfilling job that can shift from joyous to sorrowful at a moment's notice.
And, nurses, please remember to take care of yourself!
While taking care of others is at the core of the nursing profession, we need to remember to also take care of ourselves. As a working mom, it’s tough. I know many other women struggle with the juggling act and often put their health needs after those of their family, which is why HealthyWomen partnered with GCI Health to launch the HealthiHer Movement. This new movement encourages women to make self-care a priority in their lives. Check out the HealthiHer Facebook page for more information and join our movement for a healthier life!