Sat, Sept. 21

National Nurses Week
Simple rewards make nursing worth all the effort

It is a fitting tradition that each year National Nurses Week comes to a close on May 12, the birthday of one of the profession's most celebrated, Florence Nightingale.

Nightingale worked tirelessly until her death in 1910 to raise the respectability of the occupation as well as the health standards of her time.

While she is remembered each year and revered as a pioneer, nursing has come a long way since Nightingale decided to follow her calling.

In that time, millions of women and men over the world have become nurses. Right now there are 2.2 million nurses actively employed in the United States, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).

The association, which was founded in 1896, has celebrated National Nurses Week for years and decided the theme for 2005, nurses: many roles, one profession.

"This year's theme underscores the breadth of directions that a nurse's career may take," said ANA president Barbara Blakeney in a news release. "Although nurses historically have provided hands-on patient care at the bedside, and will continue to do so, nurses also are deeply involved in health education, research business and public policy."

Ivy Stearman is one nurse who knows the many different avenues the profession can lead someone down. She started Nurses Network Incorporated, a northern Arizona organization that offers Medicare-certified home health care, medical facility staff relief and private duty services.

She said some people still think of nurses as women in white hats and a uniform, pushing a cart of medication down the hospital hallway. She wants to dispel that myth.

"It's a million other things," Stearman said.

Nurses are in high demand. Stearman said because there are so many areas to go into within nursing, those entering the profession can do just about anything.

"Nurses will find their niche," said Darlene Evans, a community relation nurse with Nurses Network. "It's phenomenal what you can do with your nurses degree."

Though the field an exciting one, both Evans and Stearman agree there's a shortage of nurses, especially here in rural Arizona.

Retired Verde Valley Medical Center emergency department nurse Marilyn Warren thinks changing perceptions might increase interest.

"Advancing the image of the profession would help," Warren said. "A lot of people think nursing is about emptying bed pans … being a doctor's hand maiden."

Attracting those who like the rural lifestyle is important to recruiting nurses who will stay a while, said Pam Filey, a VVMC emergency department nurse.

"It's a good profession," she said. "It offers more opportunities than most."

Warren agrees.

"That's one of the most attractive things about nursing, the vast array of opportunities," she said.

National Nurses Week is a way to promote and celebrate nurses around the country. Stearman says the Nurses Network lets their employees know they're recognized with cards, gifts, food and parties.

VVMC held a breakfast awards banquet Thursday morning, complete with balloons, gifts and door prizes.

Sylvia Fuentes, a VVMC ER nurse received an award for doing her part to advance the profession.

She said while there are challenges in nursing, the simple rewards make it all worth the effort.

"The best part is when a patient tells you thank you," Fuentes said.

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