By Larry Zielinski
I have spent the last 30 years of my career in health care, with much of that time spent railing against a dysfunctional system and working to change it. At every step of my journey, however, I have been inspired by great caregivers – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians – who keep the patient’s needs in focus, despite our administrative limitations.
While I love working with my physician colleagues, it is nurses who are the backbone of our health system. They get into the profession because they care about people – not diseases, not organs, certainly not money – but real people, our moms and dads and kids and neighbors, who often come into our confusing health care system vulnerable and concerned. Good nurses wrap care around them and guide them to recovery.
When I started at Children’s Hospital in the 1990s, one of my first patient care exposures came from the neonatal intensive care unit. The RNs in that unit cared for those tiny infants with calmness and professionalism, and most of those babies graduated into normal childhood. Equally impressive was the way those nurses managed the worried parents who spend weeks and months in the NICU.
I was privileged to spend 12 years working with the outstanding home care nurses at the Visiting Nursing Association of Western New York. I was always humbled when I accompanied nurses on home visits, traveling to every city, town and rural hamlet in Western New York. They greet patients with a smile and personalized care, no matter how busy we made their schedule, how far they had to drive or how bad the weather was.
The nurses at Buffalo General Medical Center, where I spent four years, care for the sickest, most challenging patients in our region. I have vivid memories of nurses working with seriously ill patients in the intensive care units, providing care and comfort to patients and nervous families alike.
From an incredibly busy emergency room, to the surgical suite, to the dialysis unit, to all of the medical floors, the influence of professional RNs can be seen in every inch of that hospital.
I have always loved the story of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who wandered the battlefields of the Crimean War with a lamp, seeking and caring for wounded soldiers. “The Lady with the Lamp” symbolizes the work nurses do every day, shining a light, and caring for all of our families, friends and neighbors.
National Nurses Week is May 6-12. This year’s theme is “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate” in recognition of the vast contributions and positive impact of America’s 4 million registered nurses. Take the time to thank the nurse in your life.
Larry Zielinski is executive in residence in health care administration at the University at Buffalo.
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