The Times West Virginian


May 8, 2014

Nurses are on the front lines of health care every day of year

“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.”

You might not realize how many times those words have played a role in your life.

If you’ve had questions regarding a treatment plan, those words served as a reminder of the pledge to “devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care,” and if you were anxious or nervous before a medical procedure, those words were guiding the calm voice that had pledged to “aid the physician in his work.”

Those 110 words form the Nightingale Pledge, representing a statement of the ethics and principles of the nursing profession and named in honor of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

And they’re the 110 words that more than 3 million licensed registered nurses across the United States promise to abide by when they perform their job each day.

It’s a job for which they should be thanked every day, but there’s a special week set aside each spring to recognize the valuable work nurses do. National Nurses Week, observed each year from May 6-12, is designed to bring the profession to the forefront, and this year’s theme of “Nurses: Leading the Way” celebrates the men and women who are on the front lines of health care each and every day.

As Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, pointed out, it’s a fitting theme.

“Nurses lead the way in showing an elderly patient how to manage his or her diabetes,” Sebelius said. “They lead the way in making sure their patients — children and adults — get the vaccinations they need. They lead the way in helping our young moms learn how to care for their infants. And they lead the way in conducting research to promote high-quality life for those with chronic illnesses, and to help all of us stay healthy across the lifespan.”

There are plenty of ways to thank a nurse this week. You could organize a special celebration or reception to recognize nurses in the community for their years of service. There could be coloring or poem-writing contests for students to acknowledge their favorite nurse, a famous nurse or a family member who is a nurse. Fundraisers, such as a walk-a-thon, could be planned, with money raised being donated to a local charity in honor of nurses.

Even that wouldn’t be enough to adequately thank them for the work they do. As Karen Daley, president of the American Nurses Association, explained, nurses “are leading the way toward improving the quality of health care and, ultimately, the health of the nation.”

Take time this week to thank them for their advocacy, leadership and commitment to making life better for us all.

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