School of Nursing

April 28, 2021

Join us as we Celebrate National Nurses Month

Months come and go, especially during a pandemic. But it’s because of the pandemic that National Nurses Month, celebrated in May, is so important this year.

Nurses have been at the forefront of the pandemic response since the first U.S. case was identified here in Washington state. Every day, at hospitals across the country, nurses are going to work and saving lives. The work is demanding, dangerous, and very often heartbreaking.

We’ve all watched, with a mixture of admiration and empathy, as nurses were the ones to hold the hands of those who faced their final moments of life alone. We’ve seen how nurses never wavered in their commitment to easing suffering and how they fought to save every possible life. In almost every photo from a COVID isolation ward, nurses were at the bedside, providing care.

And let’s not forget that it is nurses who are the foundation of most public health departments, which have suddenly become highly visible and crucial to COVID efforts, including the national vaccination program.

National Nurses Month is a time for us to consider what nurses do and how they do it. As dramatic as their COVID efforts were and are, we should not forget that they do extraordinary things every day. They have the moment-to-moment responsibility for patient care. They help families understand complex medical issues and make decisions about what to do. Nurses are the last line of defense against medication errors and the first to recognize the subtle signs that a patient’s condition is deteriorating. And nurses play a significant role in disrupting the institutionalized racism in our healthcare system and being an advocate for each of their patients.

Nurses are healthcare professionals with many jobs that aren’t always precisely – they are mediators, translators, encouragers, explainers, and consolers, sometimes all in one shift. And perhaps most important in today’s world, they are powerful, knowledgeable advocates for equity in healthcare access. Nurses have unique insights into how systemic racism, social inequity, and factors such as education, financial situation, and social class affect access to healthcare and thus impact health outcomes. It is nurses who are vocal advocates for preventing illness and injury, not just treating it. It is nurses who understand the compelling, urgent need for eliminating healthcare disparities if we are to have a more equitable society.

National Nurses Month is also a time to be aware that nursing encompasses a wide range of functions in addition to clinical care in a hospital. Some nurses are researchers, managers, educators, administrators, consultants, and entrepreneurs. Many nurses have either PhD or DNP degrees, often providing primary care to many areas that would otherwise have no access to such care.

Nurses are the mainstay of the healthcare system. Please join me in May as we recognize the contributions of nurses and reflect on all they do to sustain the health of our communities.