National Nursing Week is celebrated from May 6-12, although I don’t think one week is enough to acknowledge the amazing work our nurses do. All nurses deserve recognition for working long hours, in challenging environments providing compassionate care to their patients, but I want to pay particular attention to the nurses who provide care to our residents. They also work long hours in a challenging environment but the level of care they provide our residents is extraordinary.
They work in a highly regulated environment where workloads and expectations are often challenging. Nurses who provide care for older adults with complex health issues, chronic and terminal illness, advanced dementia, mobility issues, require a special set of skills. They need to have acute clinical skills to recognize changes in health status of their residents and outstanding decision-making skills to determine when to contact the physician or family. They must excel at collaboration with a variety of members of the interdisciplinary team including PSWs, the leadership team, pharmacists, physicians, dietitians and recreation staff.
They must also possess exceptional communication skills to have difficult conversations with distressed family members or residents who may have lost the ability to communicate effectively. They are routinely involved with palliative and end-of-life situations providing care to the residents and support to their families. These are often residents and families with whom they have become quite attached.
I have worked with hundreds of nurses in a variety of environments from Emergency and ICU to Obstetrics and Pediatrics, and I have appreciated all of them for their individual skills. But I will always have a special place in my heart for nurses in Retirement and Long Term Care. In these environments, the physician is only as good as the nurse supporting them. I rely on them to tell me what is going on, to call me when I’m not on site and update me on a resident’s status. The nurses I have worked with have been more than colleagues, they have been friends. They have laughed with me – and occasionally at me. They have made me tea when I’m exhausted, brought me food when I am too busy to get food, and given me hugs when I’ve had a tough day.
To all our nurses, for everything you do, I say thank you. You improve our residents’ lives every day and make the world a better place.