In many ways, nurses are the unsung heroes of healthcare, quietly caring for patients with compassion and professionalism. Every day around the globe they perform their duties without fanfare, saving lives, bringing healing to the sick and ensuring dignity for the dying. They often are among the first to step forward during natural disasters and emergency situations, sometimes at great personal risk.
Each year, National Nurses Week shines a spotlight on the contributions and sacrifices of registered nurses (RNs) and other nursing professionals.
“As nurses, our attitude is naturally to ‘do whatever it takes’ to provide high-quality care for patients,” American Nurses Association President Karen A. Daley said in a statement during the 2013 national celebration. “With a laser-like focus on person-centered care, we may not even recognize when we are innovative in solving a problem or improving the quality of care.”
Of course, the stories of nursing heroism are worthy of recognition year-round. Consider just a few of the countless examples:
Helping in the Path of Hurricane Sandy
Since long before Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in the 1880s, nurses have played a critical role in responding to disasters. Hurricane Sandy was no exception.
As the storm came ashore along the Northeast coast in October 2012, neonatal nurses at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City were quickly but calmly evacuating tiny newborns. With no electrical power at the hospital, nurses navigated dark stairwells while manually pumping oxygen into their patients’ underdeveloped lungs, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Afterward, President Barack Obama called Langone’s chief nursing officer to express thanks to the nursing team.
Elsewhere, nurses left the safety of their homes in the hurricane’s aftermath, navigating debris-filled streets, thigh-high water and other obstacles to rescue residents and provide emergency care. Visiting nurses arrived on the scene immediately after the storm to bolster the local nurses’ efforts, placing themselves in potentially dangerous situations to bring relief to patients.
Off-Duty But Always at the Ready
Veteran nurse Deborah Johnson was attending the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans several years ago when she heard gunfire. Her first reaction was to run toward the sound of gunshots. Johnson tended to one of the victims, a young woman who had been shot in the thigh. She was able to control the bleeding while calming and comforting the woman.
“Sometimes all that’s needed to help a person through is to hold their hand and offer support, but nursing gives you a lot of skills in problem solving and intervention,” Johnson told Nurse.Com.
Johnson’s eyewitness description of the suspect helped authorities make an arrest in the shooting.
Like Johnson, Ohio nurse manager Debra Watkins wasn’t yet on duty when she provided life-saving care. Watkins, who has a Master of Science in Nursing and paramedic training, was on her way to work when she witnessed a head-on collision. After helping remove the female passenger from a burning vehicle, Watkins performed CPR on the woman until rescue crews arrived.
Watkins and other responders received awards for their actions at the wreck scene.
“I care for heroes every day,” Watkins told Nurse.Com. “The other rescuers say I’m the hero they couldn’t do without, but they’re heroes because I couldn’t have done without them.”