We’re reminded during Nat’l Nurses Month the importance of nurses

Published 11:17 am Friday, April 15, 2022

There is simply no way we are going to miss the opportunity to celebrate National Nurses Month.
Not this year. Not now. It has been inspirational, frightening, and heartwarming to see these remarkable professionals doing their essential work for the past couple of years under almost unthinkable conditions and with their own health at risk.
Nursing is a special calling and nurses are special people. That’s always been true. But for the past couple of years the entire world has seen nurses tirelessly braving the dangers of their work to take care of those with COVID, in spite of COVID, all because of COVID.
When it comes to essential employees, there are a lot of positions that come to mind. During the pandemic, people came to realize how much they depend on grocery store stockers and fast food workers. Most parents came to look at teachers with new appreciation. Daycare providers, bus drivers, police officers, firefighters. All of them are critical to our daily life.
But if there was one job that was put in the spotlight more than any other over the last year it might just be that of nurse.
Nursing is more than a job. It’s an entire category of health care providers that frequently is balled up into one catchall without any realization of what it entails.
Nursing encompasses everything from the care nurses who provide the first rung on the ladder — providing the most hands-on assistance in places like long-term care facilities — to nurse practitioners who can give comprehensive care, including writing prescriptions.
A nurse, in short, is the medical professional most likely to be there to hold your hand, soothe your fears, ease your pain and bandage your wound. A doctor orders care. A nurse provides it.
And that is why a nursing shortage is gripping the Tri-Cities, the state, and much of the nation is sending employers like Ballad Health scrambling to provide signing bonuses and referral incentives. It’s why nursing homes are reaching out to retired nurses and CNAs.
There are 172 hospitals licensed in Tennessee, in addition to 377 nursing homes. According to the Tennessee Board of Nursing, there are currently 30,363 practical nurses and 88,037 registered nurses in Tennessee. They staff our hospitals, nursing homes, work at urgent cares, medical practices, schools, prisons, and government offices like the local health department. It really spreads nurses.
But, it is more than just a shortage. It’s an aging population of nurses, too, meaning that despite high turnover in the positions to start, more is coming as nurses age into retirement.
In addition to the irreplaceable service they play in keeping people healthy, nurses need to be respected and valued for the important role they play in multiple industries that contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to East Tennessee’s economy.
Thank you seems inadequate. But thank you nonetheless. Better perhaps that we will never look at nurses quite the same way again. And we will never forget.

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