Each year, we celebrate nurses May 6-12 with various festivities in our hospitals. We hang up banners and have cake and ice cream socials. This is the first National Nurses Week in our lifetime that has occurred in the midst of a pandemic, which makes it notable and memorable.
More than 3 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the globe, and more than 200,000 people have died. A recent article on Medscape listed the names of over 100 frontline healthcare workers who have died as a result of this pandemic, many of whom were nurses.
Most of us who chose healthcare as a profession did so because of an inner calling to care for the sick. We work long hours and miss many family events and holiday celebrations due to our chosen field. Our families understand and support us, but we rely on each other to share the details of what goes on at work. It’s not really possible for a layperson to “get it,” to understand the rush of adrenaline we feel when a patient is crashing, or to feel those tears welling up when that same person gets wheeled through the exit doors to go home. We are, in effect, each other’s family at work.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a fierce enemy, one that caught the world off guard and unprepared for the ruthless wildfire-like spread of this novel virus. With no immunity and no treatment, the medical community is left to provide supportive care to patients who may rapidly decompensate as their lungs fill up with fluid and they can no longer breathe on their own, and for those lucky enough to survive weeks on a ventilator, who are left weak and breathless, and need rehabilitation and continued care to get well enough to go home. That is where we come in.
To all of our nurses who are working in the face of this new and formidable enemy, I thank you. Thank you on behalf of all of our patients, staff and physicians across the country. Our hospitals cannot function without you getting up each morning and coming into work despite an invisible enemy lurking somewhere out there. You are the backbone of our work families.
I hope that next year, saying “Happy Nurses Week” will be accompanied by cake and ice cream. And many hugs. But for now, please thank each other for what you do every day. From six feet away and wearing gloves, I extend a virtual hand to each and every one of you.
Stay healthy and well,