Nurses Week Honors Those Devoted to Health Care

By Aisling Maki

Nurses across the nation this week are being honored in their communities for dedication to the profession that’s consistently ranked as the most trusted in the nation.

Nurses like Laura Browder, R.N., who is seen here holding a newborn baby at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, are being honored during National Nurses Week. 

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

National Nurses Week, which began May 6, culminates Saturday, May 12, on the birthday of the celebrated English nurse Florence Nightingale, who’s considered the founder of modern nursing.

Nursing continues to attract people like Delinda Glass, a registered nurse at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, who dreamed of following in Nightingale’s footsteps from the time she was 10 years old.

“I always had this passion for caring for people,” said Glass, who attended nursing school immediately after graduating from high school but later put her nursing education on hold to raise her family.

Glass spent 10 years working in retail management until she lost her job when the company downsized, prompting her decision to return to nursing school full time.

Fifteen years after she began her nursing education, Glass finally fulfilled her dream of becoming a registered nurse.

“We have so much to do,” she said. “But I enjoy being able to make someone’s day a little bit better by providing care … . This is not for everybody. It takes a special person to be a nurse and to love a nurse.”

National Nurses Week coincides with National Hospitals Week, which celebrates the history and technology of hospitals as well as the professionals who staff the nation’s health care institutions.

“We do share Nurses Week with Hospitals Week, which really is an exciting message because nurses work within the health care team,” said Beverly Jordan, chief nursing officer at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., who began her nursing career 35 years ago as an intensive-care unit nurse at Baptist. “It affords us the opportunity to focus on nursing while celebrating the broader health care team.”

Baptist Memorial Health Care has roughly 4,400 nurses working throughout its regional system, which, in addition to 14 hospitals, includes clinics, rehabilitation centers, a residential hospice and other facilities.

Additionally, Baptist College of Health Science currently has about 1,200 nursing students enrolled.

The Baptist system this week celebrated nurses with a host of activities, including a Nursing Excellence Dinner, which was attended by 200 nurses. Five winners were chosen in the categories of service, practice, leadership, education and nurse manager.

Jordan said that for her, the most poignant part of Nurses Week at Baptist has been the Blessing of the Hands, in which chaplains pray over and anoint the hands on nurses.

“It reminds us that it’s sacred work that we do with our hands, minds and hearts,” she said. “Those are essential tools that we bring with us to work everyday.”

Over at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital this week, pediatric care nurses were pampered with 30-minute spa treatments, and treated to special lunches and family celebrations.

The hospital also embraced Nurses Week as a time to for continuing education, offering a variety of brief staff presentations focused on topics such as research and patient care.

“Yes, health care is an industry, but it’s a service industry and a people industry,” said Kathie Krause, Le Bonheur’s chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care, who started her career as an RN and later worked nurse practitioner. “In order to really provide the best care possible, you have to understand that we’re taking care of people at their most vulnerable time, especially in pediatrics, where you’re caring for people’s children.”

Krause said the entire Methodist Health Care System, to which Le Bonheur belongs, honored about 70 of its top nurses Tuesday during a banquet at the Hilton Memphis, with one nurse from each hospital named Nurse of the Year.

Krause is one of many nurses serving in an administrative position at a Memphis-area hospital, something that’s becoming increasingly common in the health care industry.

Baptist Memorial Women’s Hospital administrator and CEO Anita Vaughan and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital president and CEO Meri Armour are examples of nurses in top-level administrator roles.

“It’s the passion for patient care that drives all of us to want to be nurses in the first place,” Krause said. “Being able to be in hospital administration has allowed Meri to influence that patient care differently. Working with patients and families becomes one of those values that you can’t turn off. I absolutely believe that experience and training makes you a different person in hospital administration.”

That passion for patient care is what drew Allyson Murray, associate director of the Nursing Institute of the Mid-South, to her profession.

“Being a nurse is a very demanding job, but the ability that you have to make a difference in someone’s life is pretty remarkable,” said Murray, a former Le Bonheur nurse who has now shifted her career focus to making a difference in the lives of other nurses.

She says nurses are the “central piece to being able to deliver top-quality health care at all levels.”