Modern nursing began in the 19th century with Florence Nightingale, the famed “Lady with the Lamp.” Thanks to modern technology, the profession has been taken to heights Nightingale could never have imagined when she was tending to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
But despite the long passage of time, nursing is still based on the same low-tech factors Nightingale relied upon: caring and dedication.
It’s those qualities that we should take time to appreciate. Last week was National Nursing Week, which ran through to May 12, Nightingale’s birth date.
Nightingale was born in 1820 into wealth and privilege in Italy but rebelled against the traditional expectations of marriage and motherhood. Educating herself in the science of nursing, she followed her calling into that field of service and later established a training school for nurses, doing her part to take medical care to new levels.
Through her efforts, Nightingale epitomized this year’s theme for Nursing Week: “Nurses: A Voice to Lead — Health for All,” chosen to reflect the fact that “every nurse has a story and every story has the potential to improve the health system and enable individuals and communities to achieve their highest attainable standard of health,” according to the International Council of Nurses.
The profession does indeed boil down to individuals, and in Alberta, there are more than 38,400 such individuals, including more than 37,400 registered nurses, based on 2018 figures from the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).
CARNA notes that “nurses and nursing practices have continually adapted to meet the changing needs of Albertans.” Medical care changes with advances in technology and medical knowledge, and in accordance with changing policies aimed at adapting to society’s needs. For example, the aging of the large baby boomer population is putting greater emphasis on geriatric care.
Through it all, nurses are called upon to keep up with the medical advances while also holding to the long-held basics of caring for sick or injured patients of all ages. Only those who have done it are likely in a position to truly understand the demands of such a career. It’s surely not a vocation to be undertaken lightly. The nurse’s role can be taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s not everyone who is able or would want to take on some of the challenges that come with the job, such as the stress of emergency situations or dealing with terminally ill patients.
But there are surely rewards to be found in the occupation, too. People who have compassion for others and a heart to help make their lives better are recompensed by being able to make a positive difference in their community.
That’s what nurses have done throughout the history of the profession, and that’s what they continue to do. Let’s take time to appreciate our nurses and all that they do.