EDITORIAL: Nurses: A crucial role that’s too often underappreciated


A nurse’s role often comes full circle in a person’s life.

For most of us, when we took our first breaths of air, a nurse was nearby, providing care and comfort.

They remain a source of care throughout our growing-up years, whether it’s a public health nurse giving a vaccination or a school nurse checking for a fever.

During our worst moments — taking a child to the emergency room or receiving a heartbreaking diagnosis with a loved one — nurses help ease pain and offer support.

In later years, when the difficulties of aging set in, a nurse is again the one who’s there, checking vital signs, providing medication, giving a bath or simply listening. For many of us, when we take our final breaths, it’s likely a nurse will be nearby.

As they provide important care throughout our lives, it’s worth stopping for a moment to recognize nurses for their dedication and service. National Nurses Week is May 6-12, and it’s a good time to thank the nurses in your life for their work.

The week coincides with what would have been Florence Nightingale’s 198th birthday on May 12. Known as the founder of professional nursing, Nightingale is remembered as “The Lady with the Lamp” who made rounds throughout the night, tending to wounded soldiers.

While hospital conditions, medicine and technology have improved immensely since Nightingale’s time, the role of the nurse remains unchanged: to provide care. Sometimes that means weighing a newborn, and other times it’s holding a hospice patient’s hand.

For how important the job is, it’s alarming that health care facilities across the country have been struggling to fill nursing positions in recent years.

With an aging U.S. population, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that the number of nursing jobs will grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026 — meaning nearly 3.4 million nurses will be needed by the end of that time.

The bureau says a nationwide nursing shortage has eased, with more people entering the profession. But in a March report, Moody’s Investors Service predicted that a lack of nurses would keep cutting into hospitals’ margins — particularly those in the southern and western United States.

“Although the supply of nurses is expected to improve with the expanded nurse training programs and increase in the number of eligible nurse educators, it will still take three to four years for the supply to meet expected demand,” Moody’s analyst Safat Hannan said.

We are encouraged to see the next generation of nurses stepping forward locally: On Friday afternoon, Northwest College recognized 2018 graduates who will soon begin their careers as registered nurses.

It’s not an easy profession to pursue, but it’s a vital and fulfilling one. While the hours are long, the tasks are difficult and the job is often thankless, we appreciate the nurses in our community who work to ensure everyone receives quality care.