Hartford columnist makes "long-overdue toast to undervalued nurses"
January 19, 2004 -- Today Hartford Courant lifestyle columnist Gina Barreca offered a tribute to the nursing profession in which she describes the important work of nurses she knows.
Her sister-in-law is a Brooklyn school nurse whose stories about her work can "break your heart" or make you "laugh out loud," but who is now worried that the school will cut the funding for her job. A University of Connecticut English professor is also a nurse, ready to care for a panicked student who has managed to cut his hand as she is about to start class. But Barreca notes that the main reason she has been thinking of nurses is that her father recently entered a New York hospital, where the nurses are "making his life better on an hourly basis." She notes that the nurses are helping her father, who has Parkinson's and epilepsy, learn to walk better and helping him "understand how to balance the many changes he'll be facing." She notes that the profession needs to attract more women and men if "any of us are to get good medical care in the future," and concludes that "[d]eserving far more respect, authority, pay and applause than they receive, nurses are nevertheless magnificent."
Barreca deserves credit not just for thanking nurses, but for making an effort to avoid "angels of mercy" stereotypes and to describe, at least to some extent, the skilled work they do to improve lives. In describing the nurses' efforts to help both the injured student and her father, she illustrates their key patient education function. She alludes only briefly to some of the challenges nursing faces, such as budget cuts, the shortage and the general undervaluation of the profession. But the piece was obviously designed to be a tribute, and it is a fairly effective one.