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Patricia Sadoski: Now is a good time to thank a nurse

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Congressman Ben McAdams, D-Utah, greets public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth at the Salt Lake County Public Health Center on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, where he thanked employees who are producing vital data about the source of the county's COVID-19 infections and how it may have spread among county residents.

The week starting May 6 is National Nurses Week. The profession of nursing is probably best known for its influential past in the likes of Florence Nightingale. She was truly one of the most caring and iconic women in the world in her day. Her influences on the profession of nursing are still evident today.

Nurses are a dynamic group who despite the challenges, hardships and exposures have chosen this noble work. Choosing to enter the profession of nursing is embarking on a life of giving, nurturing and mending and endless tasks left undone. It is a daily challenge and an ever-present opportunity. It is an exhausting yet continually stimulating and rewarding profession that none of us ever really retire from. Some of my old nurse friends say, “Once a nurse always a nurse.”

We are the one the neighbor calls, the one who stops at accidents, who run into the danger, who soothe the fragile spirit and who defend the patient who cannot defend himself. It can be thrilling, devastating, enthralling, rewarding, fulfilling, terrifying and numbing sometimes all in the same 12-hour shift.

When I think back on some of the assignments I and others have been charged with managing, I am stunned to contemplate the immensity of responsibility. Many of my friends have delivered babies or made a life-altering decision because they were the most skilled person in the field at the critical moment. These are not unique occurrences. It wasn’t so very long ago that we were often the most skilled presence available in the hospital until the physician was called.

And now more than ever nurses are valued, needed and, in fact, indispensable. They are jumping into the fracas to help care for and attempt to save lives all across the country and the world at great risk to their own health and well-being. Although prior to this scourge our talents were valued, now they are desperately needed, too.

Prior to this winter the value and necessity of nurses was high in so many demanding areas. Intensive care units, emergency rooms, dialysis centers, newborn ICU’s and hospice bedsides are some of the many areas where nurses were not only instrumental but directing the care. It wasn’t uncommon to have a death on your shift and be the one to notify and console the family. Now it is a most horrific situation of comforting through a mask and gown and no ability to include and console the family.

Now nurses suffer the grief of losing many patients on a shift whose respiratory capacity has collapsed under the weight of a new virus we cannot seem to treat. Nurses are shouldering the added risk and fear that they themselves might get the virus in the process of caring which is unique to this crisis.

Nurses are the epitome of caring. Caring is not judgmental, negative, mean-spirited. It is not prejudiced, heartless, selective. And it is not Republican or Democrat. Nurses are typically non-disparaging. They don’t care about your income, family history, skin color, degree or financial worth. They are fiercely consumed with making you better or at least more comfortable.

The American public has repeatedly ranked nurses as the most trusted professionals with the highest honesty and ethical standard out of a wide spectrum of professions. That measure puts nurses up against doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, clergy, law enforcement and firefighters. That is a pretty daunting honor for the nursing profession. This level of trust has persisted for well over a decade.

And now with the current state of affairs with this COVID-19 virus, cities are begging for more nurses and asking newly retired nurses to return to the profession to help fight this plague-like disease. They are waving the last semester of education to have students not yet licensed assist in the care and management of seriously ill patients.

At times our profession can seem unnerving or discouraging. I can think of times when I endured being spit on, sworn at, vomited on, bled on and cried on. But most nurses would say that just goes with the profession. The memorable moments far outweighed the others, until this pandemic took hold of the world. I can think of many memorable moments of sharing the emotion of the loss with a family and a care team over the years, but the images coming out of the hot zones of NYC and Italy are like no other experience in my lifetime.

Florence Nightingale said, “The greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

National Nurse’s Week always begins on May 6 and runs to Florence Nightengale’s birthday, May 12. But please do not wait to thank or honor the nurses in our world who are so very indispensable at this critical juncture. In these times of so much discontent, discord, mistrust and fear take a moment to find a way to thank a nurse in your life.

Patricia Sadoski

Patricia Sadoski, Logan, is a retired nurse and consultant.

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