• 73°

A special salute to nurses

The American Nurses Association commemorates National Nurses Week every May 6-12. The annual recognition ends every year on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing after her heroics during the Crimean War.

Though this observance was first marked in 1954, the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s mission to Crimea, it seems all the more necessary and poignant this year.

Nurses are one of the cornerstones of our society on a regular basis. Every day and every night and every holiday, in hospitals and doctors’ offices and nursing homes and hospice facilities and emergency rooms and private homes all across this country, nurses are bringing healing to the sick and wounded and comfort to the dying. They are correcting doctors’ mistakes and advocating for patients and their families. They are giving medication, cleaning wounds, suctioning ventilator tubes and doing all manner of tasks that many of us don’t want to even think about, let alone do ourselves. And they do all of this missing meals, skipping their bathroom breaks, pulling double shifts and contending with the implications of a health care bureaucracy that too often values profits over patients.

That’s all just “on a regular basis.” Then we have the last few months, which have been anything but ordinary.

Nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are working more shifts than ever, covering themselves in more gear and living with the horrible knowledge that they are likely to catch the virus or bring it home to one of their family members. In Virginia alone, 1,504 health care workers have tested positive for the virus. That’s nearly 7.5 percent of the state’s case total and doesn’t include their family members who may have become infected.

During this special National Nurses Week, we give a salute to all of the nurses who are tirelessly putting in the work, now and all the time, to ensure that those who are ill or injured can get the care they need. You all have our undying respect and admiration.