Not all heroes wear capes. But many millions of them go to work in scrubs.
We’re talking about nurses, of course. They’ve been at the forefront of every public health crisis over the past couple centuries, from smallpox outbreaks on the Old West frontier to the present-day battle against COVID-19. Just as importantly, they’re also first on the scene when your daughter goes into labor or your grandson cuts his finger at school.
What can we do to celebrate nurses’ contributions to our lives? One way is to mark National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6th to May 12th (Florence Nightingale’s birthday) every year. Let’s kick things off by running through some of the more interesting facts about the profession.
1. Nurses are the most trusted professionals
Every year, Gallup asks Americans to rate the ethics and honesty of various professions, from car salespeople to chiropractors. And nearly every year, nurses top the poll, leaving judges and even grade schoolteachers trailing in their wake. It’s no surprise — anyone who’s ever visited a hospitalized loved one knows how reassuring it is to see nurses at work.
2. Nursing is a growing profession
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has just over 3 million registered nurses — roughly equivalent to the population of Puerto Rico. We still need more nurses, however, and the profession is projected to grow 7 percent by 2029. That’s partly because seniors are living longer and more active lives, while at the same time managing chronic health conditions that require skilled nursing care outside of hospitals.
3. Walt Whitman was a nurse
It’s hard to imagine America’s greatest poet in scrubs. But even though he lacked formal training, Walt Whitman spent three years as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. He visited with thousands of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate, doing his best to offer comfort and hope, as only nurses can. Or, as he puts it in his poem “The Wound-Dresser”:
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go.
4. Four in 10 nurses work outside hospitals
While nurses remain the heart and soul of every hospital, an increasing number work in other settings. There are nurses who teach, nurses who support the troops, nurses in industry and nurses who look after passengers on cruise ships. We’re particular proud of the nurses who work for Care Advantage, who share our mission to deliver exceptional care to patients in their residences.
5. Nursing skills can take you anywhere
Trained nurses can become celebrities such as country music stars (Naomi Judd and Paul Brandt) and award-winning actors (Julie Walters). Core nursing skills like problem solving, adaptability and empathy mean nurses make great entrepreneurs, too. Take Debbie Johnston, RN, who founded Care Advantage in 1988. It was while working as a hospital nurse that Debbie noticed too many patients were being discharged while still in recovery. Thirty years on, Care Advantage has expanded to offer all kinds of services for seniors, but skilled nursing remains one of the things we do best.