This week is Nurse’s week. It is always celebrated around the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Ms Nightingale would have been a remarkable person in any epoch, but the fact is she grew up in an age when females were rarely educated in anything other than domestic arts: needlework, arranging flowers, and genteel conversation. Fortunately for the world, her father believed girls should know as much as men, and taught all his daughters himself.
Although a brilliant organizer and nurse, Florence also excelled in mathmathics. She initiated the pie charts we see today, so that the men she dealt with could comprehend her medical stats. Thanks in large part to this remarkable woman, nursing is today a respected profession, and a trusted one. In the beginning, nurses came from the lowest strata of society, had little or no training, and were often outcasts. Only these women would venture into the slumpots of England or the battlefields of war to tend the sick and wounded. Certainly no ladies of culture would deign to actually, gasp, touch the great unwashed of society. Today, nursing is a profession even a debutante would not disdain.
I’m proud to be a nurse. At the same time, I’m humbled to be one. If my patients have considered my skills a gift to them, I have long known that being a nurse is God’s gift to me. It has given back much more than I ever dreamed. Besides the ability to support my family, being a nurse has made me feel useful, needed, and valuable. At times, I’ve even had the privilege of making a difference in someone’s life. Supreme joy!
Nurses have a saying–“nurses make the worst patients”. Let me say this about that. If we, who are, or were once nurses, fight your kind ministrations of mercy when we need you, forgive us, please. We were used to giving care, not needing it. In the line of duty, we got used to neglecting sleep, food, and bathroom breaks, pushing through the pain of our aching joints, and working crazy hours. So when we find ourselves on the other side of the bed, being cared for instead of doing the caring, we may not handle it with a lot of grace.
So before advancing age puts me in the bed, I want to say this to nurses everywhere, and very particularly to my friends who are nurses–you know who you are. Whether you work in a hospital, out in the community, or simply tend to your family’s nursing needs, you are invaluable, irreplaceable, and loved.
I salute you.