“Nursing is an art, and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work, for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body? Nursing is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.”
~ Florence Nightingale
When we consider our health care, we as a society tend to focus on our doctors; their experience, their credentials, and recommendations from family and friends help us determine into whose hands we place our lives. And while yes, our doctors are important (they’re the ones removing tumors, transplanting organs, setting bones, and prescribing medications, and we want and expect them to do all these things WELL), our overall experiences as patients often have much more to do with the care we receive from our nurses than anything else.
Nurses – who work in clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, schools, early childhood programs, and homeless shelters – support our doctors in a way that allows them to better focus on their responsibilities and perform in their roles within the health care arena. But more importantly, nurses care for and both physically and emotionally support us and our families throughout our recoveries.
Nursing is not an easy job. I worked for one summer as a nurse’s aide and knew after less than a week that nursing wasn’t the career for me. But my mom has been a nurse for more than 35 years. At times I witnessed the frustration that comes with the job: among other things, wanting so badly to help patients who refuse to help themselves. At other times I witnessed the pain that comes with the job: patients grow sicker, and some, inevitably, pass away. But she, along with thousands of nurses throughout the country, keeps at it. Day in, day out, through the frustration and the pain, because nurses believe that what they do makes a difference.
This week, from May 6th (National Nurses Day) through May 12th (Florence Nightingale’s, the founder of modern nursing, birthday), our country celebrates National Nurses Week. These seven days provide Americans with an opportunity to recognize and thank nurses in all settings for their continued and selfless service to their patients and communities.
Interestingly, nurses have always played a significant role in the services provided by the American Red Cross. Red Cross nurses offered their skills and support during times of disaster and conflict beginning with the 1888 Yellow Fever epidemic and the 1889 Johnstown floods. The Red Cross Nursing Service was officially established by Jane Delano in 1909, and has been a leading player in the evolution of nursing and nursing leadership throughout the United States ever since.
Today, more than 20,000 nurses in both paid and volunteer positions are involved with the American Red Cross. These nurses:
– Provide direct services as members of local Disaster Action Teams and by staffing Health Fairs, volunteering in military clinics and hospitals, promoting blood collection, and caring for the public at community first aid stations.
– Teach and develop courses such as CPR, First Aid, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Disaster Health Services, Nurse Assistant Training, Babysitting, and Family Caregiving.
– Act in management and supervisory roles as Chapter and Blood Services region executives.
– Function in governance roles, from the local board level all the way to the National Board of Governors.
The American Red Cross is committed to supporting and promoting the involvement of nurses, primarily volunteer, throughout the organization and in this vein (pun intended) has created a National Nursing Committee and the Office of the Chief Nurse to direct these efforts.
The American Red Cross Nursing Vision is as follows: American Red Cross Nursing…a presence throughout…uplifting lives with compassion and special skills…competent and prepared…strengthening the organization with innovation and support…enhancing the Red Cross.
This week we recognize ALL nurses – those involved with our organization as well as those providing services elsewhere – for their presence, for uplifting lives with compassion and special skills, for their competence and preparedness, for strengthening our communities with innovation and support, and for enhancing our lives.