Last week, May 5th-12th was National Nurses Week as well as the 104th Anniversary of the Navy Nurse Corps. Nurses are the lynchpin of medicine. Physicians are incredibly important and as a society we usually ascribe more value to them. However in many case, if not most it is a nurse who is the person that does the heavy lifting in the care of the sick. Before the modern era of nursing was often done by Nuns or by women that volunteered to assist military physicians.
It was in the quagmire of the Crimean War that Florence Nightingale brought about the modern era of nursing, even though physicians and hospitals often saw the women who served as nurses as inexpensive help to care for the sick. Despite this nursing became more and more professional and technical over the years without ever losing that particular calling of ministering to the afflicted that is the essence of their history. In the later 1800s the first nursing schools were established and in 1901 New Zealand was the first country to have Registered Nurses. In 1903 North Carolina became the first US State to require the licensure of nurses. The US Navy Nurse Corps was established n 1908 with nurses being commissioned as officers and assigned to Naval Hospitals.
However it was the needs of war that brought nursing into the modern age where it is formally recognized as a key component of Health Care. In the World Wars nursing came into its own as a profession. Nurses were among the US personnel that endured the initial onslaught of the war in the Pacific. The Army and Navy Nurses that served and cared for the wounded, starving and emaciated Soldiers, Martines and Sailors on Bataan and Corregidor were heroes in their own right.
The profession of nursing continues to grow and the women and men who serve as nurses at various levels, from the most highly trained Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners, or other highly specialized Register Nurses many of whom have advanced degrees including doctorates down to the most humble Licensed Vocational (or Practical) Nurse and even Certified Nursing Aides. These women and men are the backbone of medicine and despite the long hours, the years of training and certification required of them, many people don’t fully appreciate them until they become sick and are cared for by these wonderful people.
I have been blessed to have known and worked with many amazing nurses in the course of my career as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army and as a Chaplain in the military and civilian settings. As I wrote yesterday I lost a dear friend and co-worker, Commander Marsha Hanly a Navy Nurse who died unexpectedly yesterday. Marsha exemplified the best of nursing and thank God there are so many more like her who serve so well, and care so well for those committed to their. Likewise many a physician and chaplain for that matter owe a great deal to nurses.
God Bless all Nurses tonight.