This is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and International Nurses Day. Nightingale Is considered the Founder of Modern Nursing and for that reason, International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. Nightingale’s main contribution to medicine was to establish the role of hygiene in health and healing. No health professional safeguards the hygiene of our hospital units better than nurses.
This year, I am especially grateful for the work of nurses. I admire that they have stepped forward to play a pivotal role in the care of patients with COVID-19.
I have seen this firsthand with two groups of nurses, both of whom I work with. One group is the nurses who would normally work in the Youth Inpatient Unit and the second group are those nurses who have volunteered to work on the Surge Unit, my present assignment.
Both groups of nurses volunteered for these tasks that carry with them greater risks for their own health than their usual work, but they still volunteered. They volunteered to work in new and difficult situations, with other staff whom they did not know – including a very difficult doctor! By the time the nurses I work with volunteered, there were hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19 around the world. They saw images of embattled colleagues in the news, exhausted and challenged in a task that required superhuman strength. They saw what their colleagues were enduring and decided that their place was beside them, protecting the mental health patients in their hospital from coronavirus infection and its consequences.
Our success in medicine in Canada – and many other countries – is built on solid foundations of science. Every good medical decision is grounded in science, but it is nurses observing, recording, caring and checking over and over who ensure that people are healed.
My first memory of a nurse was when I was four years old. Like many four year olds in the 1950’s I had my tonsils removed. In an era when visiting hours were from 6 to 8 pm, the person who rocked me to sleep was my aunt, a nurse, who stayed after her shift to look after me so my mother wouldn’t worry.
Nurses provide the comfort that medical success depends upon. Isn’t that what you remember from anytime you have been in hospital?
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results.” Florence Nightingale
(Nurses – ready for anything! Photo credit K.B.)