This editorial appeared in the May 8, 2022 edition of the Olean Times Herald.
Each May is National Nurses’ Month – a month-long celebration and commemoration of the work our nurses do to keep us he
althy. National Nurses’ Week began on Friday, May 6 and ends on May 12 - Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Ms. Nightingale is said to be the mother of modern nursing as her work during the Crimean War lead to significant innovations in hygiene and other health measures that define the profession today.
The profession has changed much over the years. Originally, nurses acted merely as doctors’ assistants. Now, nurses have highly-specialized skills and serve as the conduit between patients and doctors. Nurses are the front line workers listening and reacting to patient worries and symptoms and acting as key players in the delivery of care.
Nursing is a noble profession and is not for everyone. The reasons that many pursue careers in nursing are as varied as the profession itself. Nearly every aspect of health care has a nursing component. If you visit a hospital, you will see nurses in every unit from the ICU to the ER to surgery to maternal/child. You see nurses in our schools (National School Nurse day is May 11) making sure our children are safe. You see nurses serving in our county health department working to make sure you are safe in your homes and in the community. Today’s nurses truly are health care leaders delivering quality care and ensuring we are healthy.
There does seem to be a common theme for those pursuing a career in nursing: wanting to help others and wanting to make people well. There is also often a component of wanting to give back to a profession that helped individual nurses in some way.
Lynne Moore, director of patient services at the Cattaraugus County Health Department, described her journey to nursing as an evolution of events. She had been working in healthcare as an aide and LPN when an unexpected cancer diagnosis forced her to be on the other side of the health care services spectrum. A diagnosis, it should be noted, brought about because an influential colleague who was a nurse noticed something not quite right about her. The care she received from the nurses, particularly, were like a beacon to her to continue her education.
“My sister-in-law and her mother were both nurses so I decided to move in that direction,” Ms. Moore said. “After my cancer diagnosis, I went back to school.”
Ms. Moore has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Health Care Administration as well as a Master’s degree. All provided instrumental in her career trajectory.
“Initially, I worked as a senior nurse in Homecare & Hospice which taught me so much about the human condition,” said Ms. Moore. “When you are dealing with people at the end of life, you really do pay attention to the little things; to the gratitude and to the love. There is a one-on-one connection that you don’t necessarily see elsewhere.”
That ethos translates into the work Ms. Moore and her colleagues at the Cattaraugus County Health Department perform every day. They have been instrumental in insuring that vaccinations and boosters have been given during the pandemic. They have dealt with patients who have had COVID, putting their own lives at risk to help those most in need. They also work with patients in their own homes through one of the few remaining county-run, home health agencies. Through referrals from hospitals and doctors, these home care services are covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurances. The services include physical therapy, skilled nursing needs, IV and wound care, post-surgical care, medication management, and complete care assessment.
Our nurses have been on the front lines of the recent pandemic and have shared stories of considerable heartbreak as well as unimaginable miracles. The COVID pandemic has been taxing for so many of us but particularly nurses. Consider what nurses have seen and what they do on a daily basis. Remember that they are your neighbors, 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 well is what will strengthen our communities.
Thank you nurses!
Pauline Hoffmann is an Associate Professor and former dean of the Jandoli School of Communication. She is also a Senior Health Fellow in the NYS Public Health Fellowship Corp working with the Cattaraugus County Department of Health.