Every May is National Nurses Month — a month-long celebration and commemoration of the work our nurses do to keep us healthy. National Nurses Week runs from May 6-12, the 12th being Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
Nightingale is said to be the mother of modern nursing, as her work during the Crimean War in the 1850s led to significant innovations in hygiene and other health measures that define the profession today.
The profession has changed a lot over the years. Originally, nurses acted simply as assistants to doctors. Today, nurses have highly specialized skills and act as a link between patients and doctors. Nurses are the frontline workers who listen and respond to patient concerns and symptoms and act as key players in the delivery of care.
Nursing is a noble profession and is not for everyone. The reasons many pursue a career in nursing are as varied as the profession itself. Almost every aspect of health care has a nursing component. If you visit a hospital, you will see nurses in every unit, from intensive care, to emergency, to mother/child surgery. You see nurses in our schools (National School Nurses Day is May 11) making sure our children are safe. You see nurses working in our county health department working to make sure you are safe in your homes and in the community.
Today’s nurses are truly health care leaders who provide quality care and ensure that we are healthy.
There seems to be a common theme for those who pursue a career in nursing: wanting to help others and wanting people to do well. There is also often a component of wanting to give back to a profession that has helped nurses in some way.
Lynne Moore, director of patient services at the Cattaraugus County (NY) Health Department, described her journey into nursing as an evolution of events. She was working in health care as a nursing aide and LPN when an unexpected cancer diagnosis forced her to find herself on the other side of the spectrum of health care services. A diagnosis, it should be noted, brought about because an influential colleague who was a nurse noticed something wrong with her. The care she received from the nurses, in particular, was like a beacon for her to continue her studies.
“My sister-in-law and her mother were both nurses, so I decided to go that route,” Moore said. “After my cancer diagnosis, I went back to school.”
Moore holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Health Care Administration as well as a Masters. All have contributed to his career trajectory.
“I originally worked as a senior nurse in Homecare & Hospice, which taught me a lot about the human condition,” Moore said. “When you deal with people at the end of life, you really pay attention to the little things; to gratitude and love. There’s a one-on-one connection that you don’t necessarily see elsewhere.
This philosophy translates into the work that Moore and his colleagues at the Cattaraugus County Health Department do every day. They were instrumental in ensuring vaccines and boosters were given during the pandemic. They have treated patients who have had COVID, putting their own lives at risk to help those who need it most. They also work with patients in their homes through one of the few home health agencies still run by the county. Through referrals from hospitals and doctors, these home care services are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. Services include physiotherapy, skilled nursing, intravenous and wound care, post-surgical care, medication management and comprehensive care assessment.
Our nurses have been on the front lines of the recent pandemic and have shared stories of tremendous heartache and unimaginable miracles. The COVID pandemic has been trying for many of us, but especially for nurses. Reflect on what nurses have seen and what they do on a daily basis. Remember that they are your neighbours, family members and friends. They are dedicated to high quality patient care. They are truly rooted in strength. Their ability to keep us all grounded and healthy is what will strengthen our communities.
(Pauline Hoffmann is an associate professor and former dean of the Jandoli School of Communication at Saint-Bonaventure University. She is also a Senior Health Fellow at the New York State Public Health Fellowship Corp, working with the Cattaraugus County Department of Health.)