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National Nurses Week begins May 6 and ends fittingly on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The week has been celebrated annually for the past 15 years, with National Nurse Day on May 8, although efforts to nationally recognize nurses began as far back as 1953. Fortunately, those initial attempts to acknowledge the noble, selfless work of nurses around the country finally took root.

Said the popular Dr. Mehmet Oz, “If you’re a patient, nurses are your greatest advocate…unless you or a loved one has spent time [under a nurse’s care], you may not fully understand the breadth of expertise and knowledge that nurses bring to the table…nurses also provide invaluable emotional support.” Sharon M. Weinstein, MS, RN, calls nurses “the most trusted healthcare professionals.”

Both agree that nursing is a true calling; you either have it or you don’t. Florence Nightingale had it, so much so that she rejected her wealthy parents’ desire for her to marry a man of means – and also rejected the marriage proposal of a rich man – to pursue what she considered God’s divine calling for her. With that resolve in mind, the “Lady with the Lamp” (so-called because Florence was known for her night rounds to help wounded warriors) began her nursing career during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Nearly 170 years later, numerous men and women in the U.S. have followed Nightingale’s lead and answered the call to care for others. Labor Bureau statistics show that 10 in 1,000 people in the U.S. are nurses, or about 3.2 million nurses nationwide.

Edward-Elmhurst Health, the result of a merger with Naperville’s Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in 2013, is one of the larger integrated health systems in Illinois. It employs 7,700 staff members, many of them nurses. Many more are in medical offices and healthcare communities around the city, including The Springs at Monarch Landing.

And more still are considered “angels on earth,” those who “have to have it all,” not only by the people they care for and their families, but by fellow medical professionals, too. The testimonials that guests and residents of The Springs provide almost always include accolades for the nurses. One woman who rehabbed at The Springs last month is already missing the nurses, not only for their care, but for their comfort and companionship.

While in Nightingale’s day, nursing was considered menial labor and beneath a “woman of status,” today it is considered the most respected profession, with 82% of Gallup poll respondents reporting that nursing is the top job in terms of high honesty and ethical standards. And, once conside red woman’s work, nursing is attracting more men all the time.

So, when you see a nurse, say thank you…for the long, patient hours on their feet, the knowledge and skill they have to properly care for so many, and the compassion and kindness they were called to
share – not just during Nurses Week, but every day.