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In Recognition Of All They Do, It's National Nurses Week

May 6th, 2013

nurses week 2013When a sick 1st grader waiting for mom or dad to arrive needs comforting, a nurse is there. In a hospice, it's a nurse who holds the hand of the dying. It's a nurse who hands the forceps to the doctor and later, the baby to the mother. Nurses are there in the doctor's office, in surgery, and the emergency room. They explain doctor's orders, translate their handwriting, and listen to what patients are saying.

Without nurses there would be no healthcare system, and very little health care at all.

Beginning today, National Nurses Day, through May 12th, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, we celebrate National Nurses Week. In honor of the nation's professional nurses, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said:

National Nurses Week gives us a chance to recognize the contribution of the health care providers at the heart of our health care system.  Every day, nurses provide leadership, innovation and advocacy to meet the health care needs of Americans...

Join me in thanking our nation’s nurses for the critical work they do in bringing better care and better health to all Americans

It was only in 1965 that an International Nurses Day was established. Nine years later, the International Council of Nurses selected Nightingale's birthday as the official nurses day, which is celebrated now in many English-speaking countries. This year, in the U.S., the American Nurses Association chose “Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care” as the theme for the week.

It is fitting that nurses be honored on Nightingale's birthday. She is internationally recognized as the founder of modern nursing and the founder of the first secular nursing school in the world.

Her "Lady of the Lamp" reputation earned for her nighttime rounds caring for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War, obscures her other accomplishments that are astonishing in themselves.

Born to wealthy, upper-class parents in Britain on May 12, 1820, she was a social reformer, winning changes in laws regulating the jobs women could hold, and improving public health through changes in sanitation. A gifted mathematician and statistician, she is credited with popularizing the use of graphics in statistics.

In 1859 she became the first woman elected to the Royal Statistical Society; later she became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

However it is for her work caring for the sick, and professionalizing a calling that was previously the domain of relatives, nuns, priests, and the military, that Nightingale is known best.

Today, the 3.1 million men and women nurses comprise the largest health care workforce. But even those numbers are expected to grow, as the U.S. alone adds 700,000 new nursing jobs by the end of the decade.

RN hiring demand 2.2013Not even two months ago, Wanted Technologies analyzed the number of jobs being advertises online and found, as it has often in the past, that nurses continue to be the most in-demand occupation in the nation, ahead of even IT professionals.

Will there be enough nurses to fill the need in the coming years? No one is quite sure, though the indicators are that today's current shortages will become more acute in the future. Although nursing schools have expanded their enrollments, RN graduates face the challenge of gaining the experience required for many of the jobs in hospitals, offices, and clinics where nurses are needed most.

The Future of Nursing report from the Institute of Medicine recommends that even more education -- a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing -- be required of nurse candidates before they are admitted to the profession. Only half of today's nurses have a BSN or other higher related degree.

However, the majority of working nurses began their careers after earning a diploma or associate's degree in nursing. After a few years, many went on to earn a BSN. That is still the most common education path for new nurses.

For men, a not uncommon path is through the military. Trained as medics and practicing in conditions from battlefields to modern hospitals, some of them go on to obtain their professional license after leaving the service.

Regardless, though. of how they come to the profession, new nurses begin their careers taking the Nightingale Pledge:

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

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