This is National Nurses Week. Nurses deserve all the respect, recognition and support they can get from the community, for all their commitment and services.
We have come a long way from the days of Florence Nightingale, who tended to wounded soldiers all night carrying a lamp, or the nurses wearing pretty white caps and changing bedpans in the old movies. The chance is that the first person who touched you and the first person you saw when you came into this world was a nurse who assisted your mother during delivery.
Also, the chance is that the last person who will touch you and the last person you will see before you close your eyes for the last time will be a nurse who will have helped you take your last few breaths. And every time in between, whenever you become ill, injured or sick, it will be a nurse offering assistance.
In addition to being true physician extenders, nurses nowadays are well trained to perform many clinical functions independently. To keep up with advances of modern medicine, they undergo rigorous training and are also controlled and supervised by various certifying, credential-issuing and qualifying agencies and authorities.
They run mini-clinics, they serve well-clinics, and they volunteer for free clinics. They assist both in health and in sickness. They triage and they treat. They cover all aspects of medicine from preventive care to emergency care to critical care. They feel your pain and they share your anxiety. They bear the burden of the inefficient and expensive medical system, being in the front lines, but they always manage to wear a smile.
You can see the compassion in their eyes. You can feel the warmth in their touch. You can take comfort in their kind words. Their presence and understanding can ease your anxiety and upset. Their sweetness and smiles can ease your hurt and pain. They truly listen and they really understand. They connect, they consult and they console.
It is a difficult job and it is not pretty, by any means. This is the main reason why we have a national shortage of nurses. We can never pay them enough for all they do. The least we can do is to appreciate them wholeheartedly. Nurses truly have a heart — a big heart, a kind heart and a giving heart.
We can express our appreciation in many ways. We can recognize them for all they are, thank them for all they do and respect them for all they endure. We can support the nurses and the nursing profession for all their dedication.
One can contribute to nursing schools and scholarship programs to support training of more local nurses. One can contribute to a free clinic or charity supported or sponsored by nurses.
Nurses are special indeed. I should know — I have been witnessing the miracles they perform firsthand day and night for the past three decades. The nurses should be able to witness our appreciation, not only in our words but in our eyes and hearts, for all their personal sacrifices to better others' lives.
Dr. Rao Musunuru is a cardiologist, member of the Board of Trustees for Pasco-Hernando Community College and works with many charitable organizations.