Earlier this week I wrote about a somewhat negative experience I encountered that involved the health care arena. Today I am very pleased to be able to counter that story with a very positive tale, indeed.

I recently had an elderly relative who was hospitalized over several days for what turned out to be a relatively minor issue. It required a procedure to correct, but was fairly straightforward and not considered life threatening when addressed. He spent several days on the Gastrointestinal and Oncology floor of our local county facility, Sarasota Memorial Hospital. While a hospital stay is never a pleasant thing, the floor full of Florence Nightingale’s employed by SMH could not have done more to make his stay a pleasant one.

It was a classic reminder that nurses are indeed the unsung heroes of modern medicine. 

To a person, everyone we came in contact with was pleasant, upbeat and professional. The nurses, however, were the ones who impressed us the most. The staff of this particular floor has to deal with some pretty unpleasant tasks, and they seemed to handle it all with incredible humor, grace and ease. They perform tasks every day that most of us just simply could not bring ourselves to do, and they do it as if it was nothing extraordinary at all.

What a difference these positive attitudes can make. Juxtapose this idea with my recent experience having blood drawn, and you can clearly grasp the concept that how patients are treated can dramatically impact the outcome they experience. Nurses are, for all intents and purposes, the front line of care in this process. I don’t think I’m the only one to notice their importance; a 2016 Gallup poll showed that our citizenry ranks nurses as the most trustworthy profession around. That is a high bar, indeed.

They even beat out pugnacious workers’ compensation bloggers. Go figure.

Today, there are over 3.2 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. RNs make up the greatest percentage of the healthcare workforce in the United States, and they outnumber physicians by more than four to one. Over half of the students in medical school today are nursing students. Still, that is not enough to meet the needs of the healthcare industry in the very near future. According to the National Center for Workforce Analysis, we will see a shortage of over 800,000 RN’s by 2020.

As many in our industry know, it is hazardous work as well. The nursing industry experiences one of the highest number of non-fatal work-related injuries in the country, and they have the highest number of musculoskeletal injuries. When it comes to back injuries on the job, no profession has a greater statistical risk than nursing.

And at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, they take that all in stride. A smile, a kind word, and a soft reassurance that everything will be ok can go a long way to improving the attitude and outcome of an ailing patient. When done in the face of truly unpleasant tasks, it is a proficiency that is all the more important. It is a skill and ability that we should not take for granted.

And we should recognize that nurses are the real unsung heroes of medicine today.

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