Monday, May 9, 2011

Honoring Hospice Nurses: National Nurses Week, May 6 - May 12

Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter's or sculptor's work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God's spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.  ~ Florence Nightingale

Every year, one week is set aside to focus the nation’s attention on the diverse ways America's 3.1 million registered nurses work to save lives and to improve the health of millions of individuals.  National Nurses Week begins on May 6, marked as RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of nursing as a modern profession.

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), registered nurses comprise the largest health care profession.  From bedside nursing in hospitals and long-term care facilities to the halls of research institutions, state legislatures, and Congress, the depth and breadth of the nursing profession is meeting the expanding health care needs of American society.

As the daughter of a physician and a nurse, and as one whose physical ailments forced me as a patient (from a very early age on into adulthood) to encounter and experience excellent nursing care, I suppose I’ve always known that I wanted to be a nurse.  It was not until the last semester of my senior year at the University of Michigan School of Nursing that I knew I wanted to specialize in psychiatric nursing, and that is where I’ve been ever since, in one capacity or another.

Very early in my teaching career, I arranged for a hospice nurse to speak to my psychiatric nursing students about caring for the dying.  This was back in the early 1970s, and in those days, hospice nursing was a very new concept in this country.  But seeing the passion, commitment and sheer joy this nurse felt for her work, I knew deep down that one day I would find a way to work in hospice, too.

Eventually I went on to graduate school and over the years held various psychiatric nursing positions in different parts of the country ~ but then circumstances brought my husband and me to Phoenix, AZ.   My dream came true in 1996 when I joined the staff of Hospice of the Valley as a bereavement counselor.  For the next 17 years I worked with and came to know many of the nurses in that agency, and it is no exaggeration to say that I felt privileged to work with angels. This video clip from Johnson and Johnson is a fine example of how special hospice nurses are:

For my part during National Nurses Week, I especially want to honor those nurses who are called to work in hospice.  If you’ve ever wondered or haven’t yet experienced what hospice nurses do, I invite you to explore Angela Morrow’s Palliative and Hospice Care articles on   Angela is a registered nurse certified in hospice and palliative care.  She specializes in helping patients and families navigate through the difficult and often confusing process of palliative care and hospice, from diagnosis, admission and initiation of care through discharge or death.  Her comprehensive Web page is a treasure trove of useful articles and resources, reflecting her belief that “with the right information and support, fighting a life-threatening illness or facing death can be done without fear and distress but with courage and resolve.”

See especially these articles on Angela’s page:
What Does a Hospice Nurse Do?
10 Ways to Show Your Appreciation

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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

1 comment:

  1. Visiting Nurse Service of New York ( wants to thank all the great nurses out there for their hard work every day! Happy National Nurse's Week!


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