From My WindowIssue Date: May 5, 2017
National Nurse's Week
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
May 6-12 we observe "National Nurse's Week," a time when we are reminded of the value of a critical human part of our healthcare system. While you could rightfully argue that every occupation deserves the dignity of a day of recognition, I do think nurses (and other medical professionals like technicians and nursing assistants) are a very worthy subject for our gratitude.
Nurses fill widely diverse roles, everything from school and occupational health nurses in our educational institutions and workplaces, to highly specialized nurses devoted to specific types of healthcare. They work in clinics, hospitals, and treatment facilities of all kinds; in the military; in elder-care settings; and in humanitarian service duties. They work as hospice nurses, caring for the dying; in mental health treatment programs; and in addiction counseling. Nurses care for our bodies; our minds and even our spirits.
Nursing is the very essence of a "caring" profession. You are unlikely to be a good nurse if you don't have empathy and compassion for people. Often, nurses are burdened with numerous duties of documentation and recordkeeping, regulatory compliance; and administrative work; making it challenging for them to spend as much time in patient and family support as they would like. Yet the best of them still find time for a kind word, gesture or active listening. The work can be exhausting and stressful.
It can also be dangerous. Nurses are exposed to every single illness there is. Many health care workers suffer back injuries, trying to assist or reposition heavy patients. Many work rotating shift work, or lengthy shifts of 12 hours or even more. And they are often the victims of workplace violence, when patients or visitors become combative. Emergency room staff are at highest risk of assault, and hospitals have begun to take measures to protect staff from this hazard. Exposure to body fluids of all types is possible; if you are squeamish, you are unlikely to be able to handle what nurses do.
And the nurses and medical staff are often the "front line" and face of the institution when relatives or friends of patients are angry or frustrated. It is not uncommon for patients themselves to lash out verbally at their caregivers. After all, patients are often in a situation where they are depressed, frightened and angry at what has happened to them. Most people are not at their best when they are patients; they are, after all, ill or injured and in an unpleasant and foreign environment for care.
We are fortunate to have several nurses in my extended family. It is a wonderful thing to be able to have them guide us when a medical crisis occurs, suggesting questions for us to ask the medical provider, or helping interpret a diagnosis.
The last time my husband had an extended hospital stay, I got a bunch of $5 McDonald's gift cards. When any of the medical team caring for him spent a little extra time with us, or exhibited patience with a request, we'd issue a very sincere verbal thank you, and give them a card, asking them to have a coffee break on us. This very small gesture was met with great appreciation, and in at least one case, outright astonishment. That person actually returned to his room when her shift was over, to tell us that she was going to pick her daughter up from school and treat her to a Happy Meal using the card, "that I got because Mommy did a good job at work today." What a great feeling we had, to have made such a small gesture that meant so much to her.
If there is a nurse, nurse's aid, medical technician or anyone else in the medical support field who makes your life better, make time to thank them this week. Their job is not easy, and they deeply appreciate hearing a sincere thank you for everything they do for all of us. And if a friend or relative is facing an extensive hospital stay, bring them a couple small gift cards and allow them the joy of honoring someone who excels at taking care of them.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
Recent stories, opinions and photos