The Sacred Work of Nurses is Done Everyday, Everywhere
May 6, 2016
“A nurse is anyone who is entrusted with the health of another.”
Florence Nightingale wrote this at a time when the act of nursing was done by domestic labor, religious women, or family members. Not yet a profession, nursing was a role, a set of tasks.
It was Nightingale’s mission to elevate not only the role of nursing, but to define it by the skills and practices equal to its value to the ill.
While we seldom, if ever, refer to Nightingale’s clean and succinct definition, anyone who has been in a hospital or emergency room, or observed a hospice nurse knows what her statement means.
In our very stratified healthcare system, physicians are so often separated from patients in so many ways. They read test reports, prescribe medications, diagnose, examine.
All of this is the border around a human experience of illness that winds up controlling the life of the patient. However, inside this border, nurses are caring for and tending to the needs of their patients.
Nightingale also wrote, “It may be the surgeon who saves the life of the patient, but it is the nurse that shows that patient how to live.”
Today is the start of National Nurses Week. However, nurses’ sacred work is an everyday practice.
Here are three things, among many, to celebrate about nurses:
- Nurses skillfully and compassionately enter the intimate life-world of their patients. They touch, wash, hold, and counsel patients and families. They clean bedpans and change bandages. They do everything “to put the patient in the best possible position for nature to act upon him.” They do everything to support healing.
- Nurses do strenuous and demanding work. They lift and turn patients and take thousands of steps to and from the patient room. They take responsibility for knowing every detail about each of their patients and are the voice of hope.
- Nurses are selfless in their dedication to their patients. They take seriously the role they play in being entrusted with the health and life of each patient. They consider their task to be a sacred trust to protect and care for patients they don’t know and perhaps will never see again.
Celebrating nursing is about expressing deep gratitude to those who have committed themselves to the profession of nursing and care for all of us in our hospitals and communities around the globe.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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