If you have ever been helped by a nurse, thank them, but especially in May; it’s National Nurses Month

By Donna Meador
Kentucky Nurses Association

May is National Nurses Month. As the professional organization representing all of Kentucky’s 90,000 nurses, the Kentucky Nurses Association would like to take a few moments of your time to tell you about nurses.

You probably know a nurse or two, may have nurses in your family or friend group, and hopefully have had positive experiences of nursing care. As we have heard many, many times (and year after year in the United States), nurses are the most trusted profession (2022 Gallup poll). But do you really know what we do? Well, it is time for our public to know, straight from the horses’ mouths.

We are portrayed in the media in a variety of ways. Most of those portrayals are angelic, caring, nurturing, even motherly. Occasionally we are portrayed in a more realistic but bent-toward-the-negative fashion. (Think of Nurse Jackie — a popular showtime series featuring a strong-willed but flawed nurse balancing the demands of the emergency room.) The truth is, caring for our patients is extremely important, of course. But what we are doing in the act of “caring” is deeper and often more technical than the public may realize.

▪ When the hospital nurse helps to reposition their patients and adjust pillows, of course it is in part for comfort, but the reality is that he or she is relieving pressure on bony prominences so that they won’t develop a pressure ulcer or “bedsore.”
▪ When the health department nurse asks what seems like 100 questions prior to administering your child’s immunization, it is to assure that it is the correct time for the vaccination, the correct dosage, and to help avoid an allergic reaction, etc.
▪ When the dialysis nurse discusses diet and what is going on at home with the kidney dialysis patient, it may sound like simply making conversation, but they are actually trying to assure the patient has what is needed, is knowledgeable about how to eat and drink to prevent fluid overload, and can avoid serious complications such as falls in the home or food and medication interactions.
▪ When the school nurse interacts with a student, he or she may seem to be just acting pleasant but may be able to identify potential serious problems such as food insecurity in the home, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, even situations of abuse.

Today’s Kentucky nurses are leaders, researchers, innovators, educators, administrators, and of course, clinical practitioners. We do our jobs in scrubs, lab coats, military uniforms, or even business suits. We are proud to speak up and advocate for ourselves and our patients, and to work diligently every day to not only care for our Kentucky communities in the traditional ways, but also to improve health, equity, and justice in our healthcare organizations and throughout the commonwealth.

During Nurses Month, the Kentucky Nurses Association will spotlight, honor, and celebrate those in our network who are more than a nurse… but a difference maker in so many lives, each and every day. Join us. Tell a nurse you know that you appreciate them, and then: ask them what they really do!

Donna Meador, MSN, RN, CENP, is immediate past president of the Kentucky Nurses Association. She is a retired registered nurse, and is active in several professional organizations.
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