Nurses are honored for their important work

CHARLESTON—Nurses garbed in colorful scrubs welcomed expressions of gratitude and special events to honor their profession during International Nurses Week.

They ate lots of goodies, had their hands blessed and listened to speakers. In between the events, and for the other 358 days of the year, nurses go quietly about their ministry, taking care of others.

Jennifer Vieau, a clinical nurse specialist who serves in the operating  room at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, said people choose that profession because they feel called to help. They don’t expect to be recognized, but nurses said it’s nice to know when  they’ve made an impact.

Vieau, who also served in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged as a captain, recalls one elderly lady in particular that she took care of at a military hospital in Texas. Frail and weak, the patient developed complications and was moved to the ICU. She was anxious and scared as the stretcher rolled down brightly lit hallways.

“Of everything I did, what she remembers most was my holding her hand and wiping her head with a cool cloth,” Vieau said. “She always called me her angel.”

Florence Nightingale was called a “ministering angel” too. She was also fortified with steely resolve and fought to reform the health care system of the 1850s and  established nursing as a respected profession.

The celebration of nurses’ week ended May 12, on Nightingale’s birthday. Although she never wanted recognition for herself, she demanded respect for her nurses.

Yolonda Williamson is a patient care technician at St. Francis who is studying for her registered nurse license. She widened her eyes at the idea that people wouldn’t be grateful for the services nurses provide. “If

they aren’t, they should be. It’s a blessing at both ends,” she said.

Nurses serve people in all walks of life. They work in schools and churches, care for the homebound, and serve in mission areas around the world, just to name a few.

It is listed as the fastest-growing occupation by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said the number of employed nurses is expected to reach 3.45 million in 2020, an increase of 26 percent. Despite the increased need, there is a persistent shortage of nurses.

“If people come into nursing for the money or recognition, they’re in it for the wrong reason,” Vieau said.

The modern-day Nightingales will tell you it can be a difficult ministry. The hours can be long, the patients difficult. But in the end, every nurse has a story to tell, and it is those nuggets that make it all worthwhile.