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Nurses hospitals' backbone


May 7, 2010 Letters to the Editor

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Nurse Appreciation Week continues through May 12. Nursing constitutes the largest health care population in America and continues to be one of the fastest-growing career fields.

Nurses are the backbone of a well-functioning hospital. In fact, it was a trail-blazing volunteer nurse who established the standards for the modern hospital, nursing as a profession, and in many ways the practice of modern medicine.

In 1851, a young woman named Florence Nightingale left the wealth and status of her family to devote her life to serving others as a nurse. The concept of nursing as we know it did not exist at that time, and nursing involved less caring for patients than comforting them.

During the Crimean War, she campaigned in the government to allow her nurses to tend to the wounded and took an assignment in a British military hospital in Turkey. Nightingale was appalled when she arrived and found poor sanitation and ventilation conditions.

Soldiers were 10 times more likely to die from typhus, cholera and dysentery than battle wounds.

Fighting with the established medical hierarchy, Nightingale instituted serious hygiene reforms and it is believed that she reduced the death rates in military hospitals to 2 percent from 42 percent. She also established the standards for the profession of nursing, the design of the 20th century hospital, and changed the face of modern hospital care forever.

In a small military hospital in Turkey, Nightingale demonstrated vision. That same compassion and forward-thinking by our nurses is what is making VA Butler Healthcare the leading-edge care provider for our nation's veterans.

The nurse who works as part of a primary care team, the nurse manager who ensures safety, or the home-based care nurse who is making house calls — each of these professionals is honoring a 150-year commitment to excellence.

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