If Florence Nightingale were around today, she'd probably be known as FloNi. She might be a celebrity or perhaps a superhero, wearing a nurse's cape instead of a hero drape.
She'd use GPS to find a fever. She'd zap away infections.
This week - National Nurses Week - she'd be on the cover of People magazine. Or perhaps on a movie marquee, starring in her own film. Nurses Week is from May 6, known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the very birthday of FloNi.
In the midst of this special week is NYSUT's Health Care Lobby Day, where nurses from New York City to Long Island to western New York to upstate will be visiting lawmakers on Tuesday, May 10, at the state Capitol and the adjacent Legislative Office Building. They will be providing facts as well as real-life stories about why safe patient-staff ratios are needed in hospitals; why visiting nurses should not be forced into mandatory overtime; and why a school nurse should be required in every school building. NYSUT represents about 7,900 in-service nurses, and an additional 900 retired nurses.
These men and women are school nurses, visiting nurses and hospital nurses. Some of them work in nursing homes. On the job, they are at the bedside, the chair side, the desk side, and walking down halls and up flights of stairs to meet their patients where they are. They have knowledge, compassion and skills to help them carry out their jobs.
They are record keepers and assessors. They save lives. They diminish pain. They find solutions. They listen. They watch. They chart. They respond. They educate. They drive late at night for shift work, or take the subway, to step through hospital doors. They lug laptops and medicinal supplies up to seventh-floor walk-up apartments in stifling summer heat to visit the homebound. In school districts, they often have to drive to different locations because there is not a nurse in every building, even though they are often the only health professional a child may see. They are the difference between sickness and health for a five-year-old with wide eyes and a hacking cough.
The National Education Association reports: "According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, schools should have one nurse for every 750 students. The reality is a far cry from the recommendation; about 59 percent of schools have a higher ratio of students to available nurses."
This letter went out today from NYSUT's five officers to NYSUT's nurses:
"In honor of National Nurses Week, May 6 - 12, 2016, and National School Nurses Day, May 11, 2016, we express our deep appreciation for your service, commitment and professionalism that you bring to the work you do every day. We would also like to extend our appreciation to all our health care professionals for improving the health and lives of students, patients and communities.
"The demands of your job require a high level of technical proficiency, knowledge and compassion. You also possess remarkable resilience, coping with the stress and complexities that your job brings.
"We all can think of a time when we, or a loved one, have received excellent care by someone in the nursing profession either in a hospital, home care setting, nursing home or school environment and how that expertise and care has touched our lives.
On a daily basis, school nurses juggle a complex range of medical and social issues: from communicable diseases, stress and chronic illnesses (diabetes and asthma) to accidents, injuries and school safety — often while moving from school to school throughout the district. For some students, the school nurse is the only health care professional they ever see.
National School Nurse Day is a day we reflect on the extraordinary role you play in the lives of children and we celebrate you! Spread the word about this celebration with a video and poster available here at nysut.org.
On behalf of NYSUT, we applaud you and your profession for the tremendous work you do and wish you, with great respect and admiration, a happy and well-deserved National Nurses Week."
A National Nurses Week resource toolkit is available online from the American Nurses Association.